January 2007 Archives

On Other Blogs #17

Peter Rozovsky, from the "Detectives Beyond Borders" weblog, ponders how authors build up a character in a detective series. He uses David Owen's novels about "Franz Heineken, the entertaining, gruff and thorough Tasmania police inspector" as a guide.

Want to know how to plan to publish a book yourself, then Ampersand Duck has the answer. She talks about an art show catalog but the same process can be used for just about any other form of self-published work.

If you are at all interested in selling dark or speculative fiction then you should have a look at the "Horrorscope" weblog's update on the current magazine outlets. Categories featured include: dead markets, suspect markets, closed markets, status changes, and open/new markets.

Mike Volpe, GM of Opera Holland Park in London, is looking for Clive James. Not in a stalking, predatory way, but because he wants to interview him about opera and Holland Park. He's tried James's agent and website with no luck, and now puts out a call on his website for contact details. I get questions like this from time to time, and always refer the enquirer to the author's publisher.

Penni Russon announces the arrival of her new novel Breathe - on US bookshelves at least. As you might expect, she's a bit chuffed about it.

Kate Holden, author of In My Skin: A Memoir of Addiction, undertakes the "page 69 test" on Marshal Zeringue's weblog "Campaign for the American Reader".

Reviews of Australian Books #43

In some ways I hope David Malouf isn't reading all the reviews, of his short story collection Every Move You Make, coming out of the UK. Helen Brown's piece in "The Telegraph" would be enough to turn anyone's head: "'Meticulous' is a word that occurs often in reviews of Malouf's work. And, true, he gets words right and makes detail matter. But it is too small and inhibited a word for the broad scope of humanity he welcomes into his careful craft. He lets characters get on with their own thoughts which he transcribes for them like a sympathetic and secular sort of recording angel."

Diamond Dove, the debut novel by Adrian Hyland, has attracted some good notices since its release by Text Publishing in the middle of last year. Peter Rozovsky continues that trend: "I read so few mysteries that I'm always pleasantly surprised when I find myself in the middle of a good one....an unabashed amateur-sleuth whodunit that works seamlessly as character study and as portrait of a setting that is probably unfamiliar to many Australians, much less to readers like me on the other side of the world."

Dean, on his "Happy Antipodean" weblog, has been reviewing up a storm of late. Of the Australian books he's read recently, he was very disappointed with The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer ("I felt abandoned by the writer, cast adrift on an ocean of metaphors without a paddle"), and very impressed with David Malouf's Conversations at Curlow Creek ("There's plenty here to satisfy the most demanding reader").

Clive James reviews Robert Hughes's memoir, Things I Didn't Know, in the January 11 2007 edition of "The New York Review of Books". While that review is not on the NYRB website, you can find it, printed in full, on James's own. The NYRB has a reputation for picking just the right person to write their reviews, and that reputation is only enhanced here. James attended university in Sydney with Hughes and has stayed in contact since both left Australia at
different times in the 1960s. Normally you'd think that such a review would be an obsequious crawl-job or a chance to settle some old scores. This is neither. It spreads the praise where it is required and is equally willing to point out the memoir's short-comings.

2006 Aurealis Award Winners

Chris Lawson, over on the "Talking Squid" weblog, lists the 2006 Aurealis Award winners:

Golden Aurealis
Novel: The Pilo Family Circus, Will Elliott (ABC Books)
Short Story: The Arrival, Shaun Tan (Lothian)

Science Fiction
Novel: K-Machines, Damien Broderick (Avalon)
Short Story: "The Seventh Letter", Sean Williams (Bulletin Summer Reading Edition)

Novel (split): The Pilo Family Circus, Will Elliott (ABC Books) / Prismatic, Edwina Grey (Lothian)
Short Story: "Dead of Winter", Stephen Dedman (Weird Tales #339)

Novel: Wildwood Dancing, Juliet Marillier (Pan MacMillan)
Short Story: "A Fine Magic", Margo Lanagan (Eidolon I)

Young Adult
Novel: Monster Blood Tattoo: Book One. Foundling, D.M. Cornish (Omnibus)
Short Story: The Arrival, Shaun Tan (Lothian)

Novel: Melissa Queen of Evil, Mardi McConnochie (Pan Macmillan)
Short Fiction (split): "The True Story of Mary Who Wanted to Stand on Her Head", Jane Godwin (Allen & Unwin) / "Woolvs in the Sitee", Margaret Wild, Anne Spudvilas (Penguin)

Peter McNamara Convenor's Award
Bill Congreve

New Books from J.M. Coetzee

The UK's Publishing News has announced that J.M. Coetzee has a new novel, Diary of a Bad Year, coming out in September this year. The novel "is the story of an eminent, 72-year-old Australian writer who is invited to contribute to a volume entitled Strong Opinions - a platform, of course, for Coetzee to air his views on such issues as the treatment of asylum seekers, Guantanamo Bay and the Middle East." In "The Guardian", Joel Rickett reports that the author will also publish a volume of his literary essays, Inner workings, at the start of March.

Australian Bookcovers #49 - Love and Vertigo by Hsu-Ming Teo


Love and Vertigo by Hsu-Ming Teo, 2000
Cover design: Scooter Design, Cover photography: IPL Image Group
(Allen and Unwin 2000 edition)
[This novel won the Australian/Vogel Award in 1999.]

Matilda Takes Some Leave

I'm off on a four-day visit to Sydney so postings on this blog will cease and return sometime
on Tuesday 30th January.

Will Elliott Interview

You will have noticed a number of mentions of Will Elliott's debut novel, The Pilo Family
, on this weblog over the past few weeks: it won the ABC Fiction Award for an unpublished manuscript last year, has recently been published in the UK, and has been nominated for an Aurealis Award in the Category of Horror novel. Now the author is href="http://ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2007/01/interview-will-elliott.html">interviewed by Stephanie Gunn on the "HorrorScope" weblog. It's interesting to note that, while Circus is considered his debut, he had no idea that would be the first of his to be published: he's written four or five others.

Best Australian Speculative Fiction of 2006

Chris Lawson, over at the co-operative weblog "Talking Squid", gives a rundown on the best Australian speculative fiction of 2006. And a pretty good list it is too. I sent in a suggestion of Passarola Rising by Azhar Abidi. I'm becoming more intrigued by this novel the more I read about it, so I'll make a concerted effort to get to it soon.

2007 Australian Literary Anniversaries

Notable Australian authors born in 1957: Allan Atwood, Nick Cave, Liam Davison, Sara Douglass, Anthony Lawrence, Hannie Rayson, Kim Scott, and Lucy Sussex.

Notable Australian authors who died in 1957: Will Lawson.

Major novels published in 1957: The Big Story by Morris West, Call Me When the Cross Turns Over by D'Arcy Niland, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, One-a-Pecker, Two-a-Pecker by Ruth Park, Outbreak of Love by Martin Boyd, Seedtime by Vance Palmer, They're a Weird Mob by Nino Culotta, and Voss by Patrick White.

Hodder and Stoughton Publishing house was established in 1957 and the NSW Bookstall Company ceased trading.

Reviews of Australian Books #42

Will Elliott's novel, The Pilo Family Circus is reviewed by Rebecca Pearson in "The Independent" this week, and she much more upbeat than the "Guardian Review" notice last week. Even though the book has a fundamental flaw in the narrative, "I couldn't put Elliott's debut novel down. It's fantastic," she says.

Also in "The Independent", Lesley McDowell looks at Rachel Seiffert's second novel, Afterwards. She thinks that the author may have moved away from her main abilities as a writer: Seiffert is keen to play everything down: her prose is bare, emotions are held in check, the plot eschews suspense, flashbacks are kept to a minimum. This is understandable given the message at the heart of the novel about the problem of communication, even in the most intimate and revealing of relationships. But it is a mistake to do this. Seiffert is not a sensual writer, yet she has placed a sensual relationship at the heart of her story. It plays not to her strengths, but, rather, exposes her weaknesses."

The reaction to David Malouf's short story collection, Every Move You Make, continues to be positive, with the latest review coming from Tom Deveson in "The Sunday Times": "Time and place are defined throughout with attentive care...Malouf is now in his seventies. It's natural that memory and death should be interwoven on many pages...Malouf presents many kinds of people in many kinds of mood, but he doesn't judge them...Malouf is also a poet, and his writing here has a fine descriptive delicacy and sensory exactness that act as guarantees of the stories' truth and the authenticity of the experiences they embody."

For the first time that I can remember, Markus Zusak's novel The Book Thief is on the receiving end of a non-complimentary review, this one from Stuart Kelly in "The Scotsman": "The Book Thief is not a bad book, just a problematic one. Despite its eerie narrator and the horrors it unfolds, there is an iron-hard streak of sentimentality running through it. Perhaps the witty conceits might have been better deployed against a different historical backdrop...Zusak is an interesting and inventive author, and hopefully the hype around The Book Thief will spur him on to greater things. The only thing robbed by The Book Thief, however, is the reader."

Slate writer Mia Fineman reviews Robert Hughes's memoir, Things I Didn't Know, and quite taken with it she is too: "Hughes is a bravura performer, both on the screen and on the page. He writes with astounding verve, in a voice that slips easily between boisterous vulgarity and polished eloquence...Hughes' writing is muscular and dazzlingly lucid; he refuses to indulge in sublime metaphysical musings or languid adjectival swooning, opting instead for precise, verbally nimble descriptions of art's effects."

The 2007 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature

It has been announced that Sonya Hartnett's novel, Surrender, and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, have both been named as Honor Books in the 2007 American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. This is the second year in a row that Zusak has been shortlisted for the main award.

Garry Disher Profile

Samela Harris, of the Adelaide "Advertiser" profiles Australian crime writer Garry Disher, on the eve of the publication of his fourth Inspector Challis novel, Chain of Evidence. Normally based on Victoria's Mornington Pensinsular, in this novel "Disher draws upon his memories of SA's arid Mid North. It turns out that Challis grew up just a bit further north - 'somewhere on the edge of the rainshadow'." Which sounds like it was just near where I grew up.


It seems I blindly followed in Haris's footsteps and got the title of the new Disher novel incorrect. That has now been fixed.

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #3

The Age

Reading someone's letters always seems like a distinctive invasion of privacy to me. But I do it all the same, seeking out extra insights into people I'm interested in and generally eavesdropping on gossip. Peter Hill has gone one better with a review this week of Bert and Ned: The Correspondence of Albert Tucker and Sydney Nolan, edited and introduced by Patrick McCaughey. Hill finds it "a gorgoeus book, both for its content and its design and layout...This volume has been compiled with great care and scholarship for us to enjoy at our leisure and I recommend it highly."

The Australian

Australian books still on holidays, it seems.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Bronwyn Rivers has a look at a debut novel by Jessica White, titled A Curious Intimacy, and comes away thinking that it doesn't quite hit the mark: "...too many characters feel like missed opportunities, their interest not fully exploited. This sweet romantic story has the pace and atmosphere of a literary novel, but lacks the impact of a more profound emotional drama."

Literary allusions and in-jokes seem to be the order of the day in Helen Garner and the Meaning of Everything, a new novel by Alex Jones. Kerryn Goldsworthy finds that "It is, in short, a brilliant and near-absurdist rave, a sort of 21st-century Such is Life (a book the narrator swears he will never read), with a surprisingly warm and solid foundation in everyday suburban family life."

A little known story from the early days of Sydney forms the basis of Carol Baxter's book An Irresistible Temptation: The True Story of Jane New and a Colonial Scandal. "Jane New's story is one of theft, seduction, incarceration, escape, corruption and political intrigue. For all the differences between New's world and our own, readers will find much to recognise in the persuasive powers of sexual attraction, the importance of getting the right lawyers and the media's role in bringing down politicians." Kirsten McKenzie is impressed with the work, while being very disappointed in the cover.

The Courier-Mail

Jason Nahrung discovers the explosion in vampire-related novels: covering the romance, horror and fantasy genres.

Howard Arkley's work is examined in Carnival in Suburbia: The Art of Howard Arkley by John Gregory and the book is reviewed by Christopher Bantick. "It is a book which attempts to contextualise Arkley's work and also offer a perspective on his contribution to our understanding of suburban life. It achieves this moderately well."

Australian Bookcovers #48 - The Book of Miles by David Astle


The Book of Miles by David Astle, 1997
(Minerva 1997 edition)

2007 "Age" Short Story Competition Second Runner-Up

The third place-getter, or second runner-up (whichever you prefer) in "The Age" short story competition has now been published. The story is "Suckered into a Perfect Line" by Bill Collopy.

Seamus Heaney, Les Murray and Derek Walcott

In the midst of praising the TS Eliot Prize judges, Boyd Tonkin likens the winner, Seamus Heaney, to two other great modern poets: Les Murray and Derek Walcott. "Poetry specialists may scorn as pure fiction the special category into which I tend to slot Seamus Heaney from County Derry, Les Murray from the Manning River, New South Wales, and Derek Walcott from the island of St Lucia. Sure enough, they can differ vastly in outlook and approach, Yet each of this trio of giants is both earthy and ecstatic, local and global, imbued with the past but alert to the present. And each has consistently tested and deepened the ties between Eliot's poetic 'tradition' and the 'individual talent' that modifies it."

Poem: A Doggerel Bard's Difficulties by Allan F. Wilson

Before his writing table sits the bard with pen in hand,
Striving to get his scattered thoughts well under his command;
But this herculean efforts are of very little use,
For the children, oh, the children, are like bedlamites let loose.
From teatime until bedtime there is ne'er an interlude
Till the gentle poet almost feels homicidal in mood,
And he longs with fervent longings for the backblock's solitude.
The room wherein he strives to write, with childish glee resounds,
He might as well be sitting in a kennel full of hounds;
There's a child upon the sofa, there is one on every chair --
In fact, to him it seems that there are children everywhere;
The din that swells and rises in the half-dismantled room
Is like the roar of breakers, or the dreadful crack of doom.
His stern command for "order" does not seem to signify,
His voice remains unheeded, for the pack is in full cry.
When sometimes there occurs a lull, his wife will gently say --
"My dear, they are but children, let the little darlings
play. 'Tis very well for you to talk, now you are on the shelf;
But don't forget, my love, that you were once a child yourself.
So let the little dears rejoice and make a joyful noise,
For girls, you know, will still be girls, and boys be always boys.
Forbear that foolish scribbling that brings you no returns.
You'll never be a Byron, dear, nor yet a Bobbie Burns.
Come, gather up your writing things, and put them all away;
Come off your Pegasus a while, and with your offspring play."

The port in the mirror looks to see if he's gone grey;
He gazes at his helpmeet in a mild, reproachful way,
Then smiles a pale and wintry smile, and answers -- "Yes, I know
That I was formerly a boy, but that was long ago.
I know that my admirers are but far between and few,
But yet I did expect a little sympathy from you,
And you, of all the world, should strive my comforter to be,
For are you not aware that you're the other half of me?
I know my remuneration's quite inadequate --
That as a port I shall never rank among the great:
I know I'll not be recognised while I'm down here below,
And, oh, confound it! that's not half, alas! of what I know.
I know I'm neither Bobbie Burns nor Byron, as you say,
But, by my halidome! I know I'll very soon be Grey."
On this the wife her usual role of comforter resumes,
And Soon contrives -- as women can -- to smooth the ruffled plumes.
But, oh! 'tis hard upon a bard who sits him down to write,
To have his playful fancies thus disturbed and put to flight.

First published in Melbourne Punch, 8 December 1908

Locus Magazine Best of the Year

It's taken a little while to get here but now Claude Lalumière has chosen his best SF, Fantasy and Horror of 2006 for Locus Magazine.

His choice for best sf novel of the year: Passarola Rising by Azhar Abidi, which he describes as follows: "For his debut novel, Azhar Abidi combines two archetypal SF subgenres, the alternate history and the fantastic voyage. The premise: what if, in eighteenth-century Portugal, Bartolomeu Lourenço had been permitted to build and fly the airship he had designed? Abidi concocts a rousing adventure novel in which the eighteenth century comes alive as a truly alien world and in which the profound bond between two brothers (Lourenço's brother Alexandre narrates the tale) is explored with depth and

On Other Blogs #16

Ronlyn Domingue, author of the novel The Mercy of Thin Air, writes about her favorite books of 2006 on Marshal Zeringue's weblog "Campaign for the American Reader". Of the three she mentions: "Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman, a virtuosic, compelling, psychological novel about a man who kidnaps the child of a former lover."

In attempting to answer the question, "Is the Holocaust a fitting subject for children's books?", on the Guardian Arts blog, Dina Rabinovitch looks at The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. "'Markus Zusak hasn't really written Harry Potter and the Holocaust,' declared Janet Maslin in the New York Times. 'It just feels that way.' She means the dramatic sweep of the novel, its young heroine in a world of adults, its capacity - once you are past the first few pages - to keep you reading right through the night." She recommends it.

Sean Williams talks about his upcoming 23rd novel, Saturn Returns, and a strange character in the book who only talks using the words of a certain 1980s electropop pioneer.

Homesickness has overcome Kelly Gardiner, an Australian writer living in New Zealand, so she has decided to return to Melbourne and work at the State Library of Victoria. Now it's just packing, packing, packing.

Judith Ridge is researching critical writing about Australian children's and young adult literature, and has put out a call on her weblog: "if any fellow critics/reviewers are reading, I'd be pleased if you could direct me to the review or article which you think is your best and/or most significant piece. And while I'm here, anyone can contact me to alert me to a review or critical article about Australian children's literature that you think is well-written and significant in what it has to say about the literature and/or about attitudes towards children's books, children and childhood/adolescence, or even about Australian society and culture in general."

Literary Gatherings #6 - Norman Lindsay, Will Dyson and Rose Lindsay


From left: Norman Lindsay, Will Dyson and Ruby Lindsay

Australian Speculative Fiction

If you're wondering what is happening these days in Australian Speculative Fiction then I recommend that you have a look at Ben Peek's review of the short fiction nominees in the 2007 Aurealis Awards.

After an introduction to the awards Peek treats each of the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Young Adult nominees to a detailed critical examination. He cries off the Children's section as he doesn't feel qualified to review them, and that, in itself, should give you some sense that this bloke takes his work seriously. Now, if we could find someone to do the same for the novels we'd be well covered.

Garth Nix Aligned with J.K. Rowling 2

Further to my note on Monday about the British retailer WH Smith giving away copies of a Garth Nix novel with every pre-order for the upcoming and last Harry Potter novel, the Nix novel in question is The Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday. This is the first novel in the author's fantasy series which is planned to feature seven books in total.

A correspondent informed me that this is the next step in an evolving book marketing cycle which has also featured book chains selling "bespoke" editions of some books, ie with specific and individual book covers.

I wonder if the next step for these chains is to sell combined editions of several books in a series, or back-to-back publications like the old Ace doubles of the 50s and 60s. You can expect some interesting volumes on sale when the print-on-demand technology becomes widespread.

Reviews of Australian Books #41

Elena Seymenliyska reviews Will Elliott's novel, The Pilo Family Circus, in the "Guardian Review". She doesn't seem that impressed by the work: "...his gripe seems to be with 'ordinary' life, as lived by regular pie-munching breeders, but his critique gets lost in complex confabulations of alternate universes, mind-altering substances and shape-shifting characters." Sounds like another case of a reviewer being dazzled by the light-show and unable to see the work underneath.

In the same paper, Diane Samules is very impressed by Sonya Hartnett's The Silver Donkey: "Hartnett uses space as eloquently as she uses words. Her writing effortlessly touches on themes of great complexity without a hint of gravitas. Each character is vividly evoked with brushstrokes as light and clean as the illustrations...Every syllable crackles with meaning, encouraging the reader to reflect and contemplate, while the narrative compels you to read on. And the pleasure of holding this small volume affirms the special joys of having a hardback, too."

A bit old now, as it was written in August 2006, but worth a mention - Ken reviews Sean Williams's novel The Crooked Letter on his weblog, "Neth Space": "Imagine a classic, cliché fantasy beginning; now imagine it being turned upside down, inside out, twisted, altered, and finally you're left an alien hallucination flavored with almost recognizable myths from the world over. This is a good start for realizing The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams...It is as dark and gritty as a Miéville novel, as strange as Steven King, and more accessible than either." Ken later goes on to suggest that maybe the book should be nominated for a Hugo Award later this year.

David Malouf's new short story collection, Every Move You make, is reviewed on bloomberg.com (second item), which seems a rather strange place for it. "The seven tales in David Malouf's new collection traverse the Australian continent, conjuring up an equally diverse cast...These plangent tales of longing and the consolation of passing time brim with ethereal mischief..".

Peter Bulkeley is impressed with Richard Flanagan's latest novel The Unknown Terrorist in his review of the book on his weblog, "Aussie Values". In particular, he draws attention ot the political side of the novel: "We have sacrificed so
much of what we say we are protecting and in the case of Iraq, trying to export. Flanagan has shown us this in clear relief. Politicians, police, journalists, bureaucrats - those who are supposed to be the 'goodies' have succumbed and have compromised their own values to create an Orwellian world where the forest has been overtaken by the trees."


The Complete Book of Australian Verse by John Clarke, 1989
(Allen & Unwin 1990 edition)

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #2


The Age

Not a lot of reviews are being added to "The Age" website lately - only one from this past weekend, so far. There is no way of telling if this is a just a hangover from the New Year slowdown or a new policy from the paper. Only time will tell.

It's strange that a travel book by Mark Twain should be published by Melbourne University Press, but such is the case with The Wayward Tourist: Mark Twain's Adventures in Australia which has appeared with an introduction by Don Watson. Twain passed through australia as part of his world-wide lecture tour, put together to get him out of debts arising from some bad investments. Jeff Sparrow reviews the book and comments on the similarities between Twain's work and recent efforts from Bill Bryson, even down to Twain's declaration of his approval of "the finest breeds of man-eating shark in the world". But the best piece comes at the conclusion, quoting Twain: "Australia is fertile in writers whose books are faithful mirrors of the country and of it shistory. It has a brilliant and vigorous literature, and one which must endure." As Sparrow spins it: "The Wayward Tourist accordingly allows readers a certain patriotic pride. Not ever nation can boast that a literary giant such as Mark Twain regards its writers with nearly the affection he bestows on its man-eating sharks."

The Melbourne-based community radio station 3RRR is celebrating 30 years on air, and Michael Williams is fastinated by the stations "biography", Radio City: The First 30 Years of RRR by Mark Phillips: "...the best local histories are faithful to the passionate residents who own the stories while simultaneously demonstrating a broader relevance and truth. [This book] is one such history...The loyal 3RRR listener will find much to illuminate and delight in this exploration of one of Melbourne's great institutions; more importantly, the general reader will find it a fascinating cross-section of the shifting culture of a city."

Steven Carroll is impressed with Gideon Haigh's latest collection, Silent Revolutions: Writings on Cricket History: "Haigh's style is as classical and crisp as a perfectly timed cover drive...Another fine innings, from a class act."

The Australian

Two collections of stories get an ambivalent review from Heidi Maier: Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy, and Diamonds in the Mud and Other Stories by Joy Dettman. "At her best, Kennedy writes with almost surgical precision, distilling the essence of her characters and situations to a minimum of words...Dark Roots boasts fine stories but as a cohesive collection it is less successful...Like Kennedy, Dettman grounds her fiction in everyday situations, although her stories are more bush fare than explications of contemporary suburban existence. What further distinguishes her, unfortunately, is a gift for the simplistic and unoriginal."

Christine Cremen finds that Kerry Greenwood's latest Phryne Fisher novel, Murder in the Dark "is a return to form. A diverting Australian reinterpretation of that golden age classic, the country-house mystery, it's set in rural Victoria at the height of summer, instead of somewhere snowbound in England."

2007 "Age" Short Story Competition Runner-Up

The "Age" has now published the runner-up in their 2007 Short Story Competition: "Remaking the Image of this World" by Shane Jesse Christmass. The winner was published last week, and the second runner-up will appear next weekend.

Garth Nix Aligned with J.K. Rowling

I almost titled this with an "in bed" phrasing, but decided that would be too tabloid and tacky.

"The Guardian" is reporting (about halfway down the item) that W.H. Smith - a major UK newsagent and bookseller - is offering a free copy of a Garth Nix book with all pre-orders for the seventh and last Harry Potter novel by J.K. Rowling.

Interesting publicity technique if nothing else. Hopefully it will introduce Nix to a number of children who have been looking for something to read between Potter instalments.

Fiona McIntosh

Fiona McIntosh is one of those authors who can slip under the radar. The author of 7 fantasy novels, including one in each of 2005 and 2006, she has received only one mention on this weblog in those two years: a brief listing of a small review of her novel Emissary in early December 2006. That gives me the impression that her work is just not being considered by the mainstream media in this country.

Now, however, "The Sydney Morning Herald" has published a long profile of the author. You have to wonder if this was brought on by the fact that McIntosh has sold the rights to her latest fantasy trilogy, the Percheron series, to the UK, the US and Canada. In any event, the extra publicity is obviously going to be welcome with the third book in the series, Goddess, out late this year.

Added to that there is a crime novel written under a pseudonym also being published, and she is currently working on a children's fantasy for nine to twelve year-olds. It makes you tired just thinking about it. For more information, you can visit the author's website.

Poem: The Bush Poet Speaks by Tom Collins (Joseph Furphy)

Tell me not in future numbers
   That our thought becomes inane,
That our metre halts and lumbers,
   When the Wattle blooms again.

Time may change this loyal jernal
   From religious to profane;
But a rhythmic law eternal
   Makes the Wattle bloom again.

Trust no Flossie, howe'er pleasant;
   Sweeps are treacherous; totes are vain;
Banks and scrip are evanescent --
   But the Wattle blooms again.

Cultivate no fair ideal;
   Own no country seat in Spain;
All these things must go to Sheol,
   Whilst the Wattle blooms again.

This, you see, austere and lonely,
   Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
One great fact is certain only --
   That the Wattle blooms again.

First published in The Bulletin, 27 August 1898

Combined Reviews: Carpentaria by Alexis Wright

carpentaria.jpg Reviews of Carpentaria by Alexis Wright.

Description from the publisher's page:

"Alexis Wright is one of Australia's finest Aboriginal writers. Carpentaria is her second novel, an epic set in the Gulf country of north-western Queensland, from where her people come. The novel's portrait of life in the precariously settled coastal town of Desperance centres on the powerful Phantom family, leader of the Westend Pricklebush people, and its battles with old Joseph Midnight's renegade Eastend mob on the one hand, and the white officials of Uptown and the neighbouring Gurfurrit mine on the other.

"Wright's storytelling is operatic and surreal: a blend of myth and scripture, farce and politics. The novel teems with extraordinary characters - Elias Smith the outcast saviour, the religious zealot Mozzie Fishman, the murderous mayor Stan Bruiser, the moth-ridden Captain Nicoli Finn, the activist and prodigal son Will Phantom, and above all, the queen of the rubbish-dump Angel Day and her sea-faring husband Normal Phantom, the fish-embalming king of time - figures that stride like giants across this storm-swept world.

"Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her books include Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in the outback town of Tennant Creek, and the novel Plains of Promise, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize, the "Age" Book of the Year Award and the NSW Premier's Award for Fiction, and translated into French as Les Plaines de l'espoir."

In the "Australian Book Review" Kate McFayden is impressed by the way Wright is able to incorporate an ancient story-telling technique into her novel: "Wright recognises the strength of the oral tradition as a satirical and ironic tool. The combination of storytelling on a mythic scale with the guile of the knowing look generates the energy required to drive this genius epic." You might get carried along with the story but don't expect an easy ride. "Carpentaria is that rare kind of novel which opens up an entire world to the reader, a place that is both familiar and strange. Wright expects her readers to work, to keep up. If you stumble and lose your bearings, you just have to trust the narrator and let the eddies of digression flow around you until you can regain your toehold. The rewards are plenty. It is the most exhilarating book I have read in a long time."

Liam Davidson attempts to put the book into context in his review in the "Sydney Morning Herald": "Alexis Wright's second novel is a vast, sprawling affair that extends magically beyond its hefty 500 pages. It takes you outside the expected scope of narrative time to a place that is simultaneously familiar and astoundingly new. So comprehensive is Wright's vision that reading it is like looking at her world from the inside. It's an unashamedly big book - big in scope, ambition and physical size - and
well-suited to the Gulf country it sings. It is also an important book."

Carole Ferrier finds a lot of "burlesque" humour in the book in her review in the "Australian Women's Book Review". That, and "a dry ironic humour at many points, in almost throwaway lines." She also agrees that "The novel works at many levels, through from this humour and irony to a lyrical and poetic evocation of the age-old presence of the rainbow serpent. The shifts in register produce a heteroglossia that is beautifully unified through a narration that has great confidence and authority."

On Adelaide's Writer's Radio program, Gillian Dooley casts one of the few criticisms at the book, finding that it takes some time to draw the reader in. Dooley thinks this might be a mistaken technique that might well drive away some impatient readers. However, in the end, even she finds that it is "a moving and involving book and amply rewards the reader's persistence.

Jane Sullivan profiles the author in the "Sydney Morning Herald". As target=new>does Michael Fitzgerald in "Time".

Great Australian Authors #38 - Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw

mbarnard.jpg feldershaw.jpg

Marjorie Barnard (1897 - 1987) and Flora Eldershaw (1897 - 1956)

The first light was welling up in the east. In the west a few stars were dying in the colourless sky. The waking sky was enormous and under it the sleeping earth was enormous too. It was a great platter with one edge tilted up into the light, so that the pattern of hills, dark under a gold dust bloom, was visible. The night had been warm and still, as early autumn nights sometimes are, and with a feeling of transience, of breaking ripeness, of doomed fertility, like a woman who does not show her age but whose beauty will crumble under the first grief or hardship. With the dawn, sheets of thin cold air were slipping over the earth, congealing the warmth into a delicate smoking mist. Knarf was glad to wrap his woollen cloak about him. Standing on the flat roof in the dawn he felt giddily tall and, after a night of intense effort, transparent with fatigue. Weariness was spread evenly through his body. He was supersensitively aware of himself, the tension of his skin nervously tightened by long concentration, the vulnerability of his temples, the frailty of his ribs caging his enlarged heart, the civilisation of his hands . . . Flesh and imagination were blent and equally receptive. The cold air struck his hot forehead with a shock of excitement, he looked out over the wide sculptury of light, darkness, earth, with new wonder. For a few moments turning so suddenly from work to idleness, everything had an exaggerated significance. When he drew his fingers along the balustrade, leaving in the thick moisture faint dark marks on its glimmering whiteness, that, too, seemed like a contact, sharply intimate, with the external world where the rising light was beginning to show trees dark and grass grey with that same dew.

From Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by M. Bernard Eldershaw, 1947 (censored version), 1983 (complete version)

A bit of explanation is required here: This novel was originally published in 1947 under the title Tomorrow and Tomorrow after the text was censored by the Australian Government. The book's original title, and the censored text, was restored in the Virago Modern Classics edition of 1987. M. Bernard Eldershaw was the pseuodnym used by Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow was the fifth novel they wrote together between 1929 and 1947. It was also to be their last. The book is considered to be one of Australia's major early science fiction novels and was named by Patrick White, in the 1980s, as the Australian novel he would most like to see republished.

Reviews of Australian Books #40

The UK reviews of Markus Zusak's novel, The Book Thief continue with Philip Ardagh in "The Guardian" stating that everyone should read it: "This is a beautifully balanced piece of storytelling with glimpses of what is yet to come: sometimes misleading, sometimes all too true...Unsettling, thought-provoking, life-affirming, triumphant and tragic, this is a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told. It is an important piece of work, but also a wonderful page-turner. I cannot recommend it highly enough."

Lisa Tuttle, in "The Times" considers a "new departure" for Juliet Marillier, with the publication of her new novel, Wildwood Dancing: "Teenage girls are the target audience, but this may please anyone who enjoys a well-told fairytale. Fans of Marillier's historical fantasy may be disappointed, but the Transylvanian setting lifts it out of the ordinary - and who could fail to love Gogu, the telepathic frog?"

David Malouf's latest short story collection, Every Move You Make, has now been published in the UK and Anna Scott in "The Observer" comes to grips with it: "Emitting a quality of timelessness, the savage beauty of Malouf's native Australia is omnipresent. Brought to life with poetic elegance the vast uncharted territory becomes a metaphor for the human psyche and provides a fitting backdrop to the bemused wanderings of characters trying to make sense of their lives...At times unsettling in the intensity of their vision, Malouf's stories provide a deeply intelligent meditation on the unknowability of the self and 'how small the pressures might be that determine the sum of what is and what we feel'."

Also reviewing Malouf's book is Jem Poster in "The Guardian" who calls it an "outstanding collection".

On Other Blogs #15

Sally on "Books and Musings from Downunder", lists all 141 books she read in 2006 - a pretty good effort - along with her ratings for each. I notice she gives Banville's The Sea a D+, Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson a C, and an E for The Broken Shore by Peter Temple.

On his weblog, "Cheeseburger Gothic", John Birmingham outlines some rules for introducing characters in fiction: "Don't front end load the entire backstory of a character the first time we meet them. Physical descriptions, yeah. If you want to go into great depth about what they look like, it's appropriate to do so early, if not necessarily in the first line."

A new discovery for me is Peter Rozovsky, from Philadelphia in the US, and his weblog "Detectives Beyond Borders: A Forum for International Crime Fiction". Late last year he discussed the books of Peter Corris, during which he stated: "After reading Peter Temple, Garry Disher, David Owen and Shane Maloney, I found myself associating Australian crime writing with humor, of course, but also with a low-key approach and a lack of self-pity on the part of first-person narrators." So it looks like I'll have to check out David Owen as well. If Peter includes him in that company he's got to be worth checking out.

Cam, on his MySpace page, waxes enthusiastic about a David Malouf novel: "I just finished reading David Malouf's The Great World, and I have to say that this is actually one of the most fantastic books I have ever read. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in some holiday reading. Malouf's an Australian author who wrote a lot of poetry before turning to novels, and it shows in his writing style which is-- well, I found it to be utterly incredible. He isn't particularly verbose, but he manages to evoke very clear and powerful images with just a few words. Seriously, it's fantastic."

Peter Temple and Jack Irish

It's titled "An Interview with Peter Temple", but this piece is really a one-pager from Temple giving some details about the Jack Irish novels, how they came to be written and how they have developed. It's a PDF file but is only one page so shouldn't flood your system too much.

Peter Carey's Recurring Nightmare

"Peter Carey is the son of privilege -- and an heir to terror. Poised on the brink of power over a mighty family dynasty, he is also the victim of a recurring nightmare that suddenly becomes all too real. The twisted force that had claimed his parents many years before now stalks him too. But the key to his survival lies locked deep in Peter's own mind. And he must discover it before the final night closes in. . ."

No, not the author, but a character in Escape the Night by Richard North Patterson. Somehow I don't think this one will end up on my to-be-read pile.

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #1

The Age

Christopher Bantick looks at two books on Australians in wartime: The Strength of a Nation by Michael McKernan, and Defying the Odds: Surviving Sandakan and Kuching by Michele Cunningham. (The review is not on the website.)

McKernan's book "serves two purposes. First, it offers an impressively compressed history of Australia's participation in World War II. Second, it distils the impact of war on individuals from personal stories. These cover both military participation abroad and those at home supprting the war effort...It is McKernan's ability to meld factual information with the personal experience of war that makes this book a readily appreciated and at times moving read...Although McKernan's book has some informative photographs, Cunningham is heavily, and necessarily, reliant on materials retained by prisoners after the end of the war. There are many photographs, copies of letters and reproductions of artwork created in the camps...This augments what is a story highlighting men of peerless resilience and endeavour who daily faced starvation and the threat of physical punishment."

Gig Ryan is impressed with two new collections of poetry (and again the review is not on the website): the flower, the thing by M.T.C. Cronin, and latecomers by Jaya Savige. "In Cronin's poetry the meaning is efflorescence, the surge of observations and musings that bustle forth...latecomers is a poised debut ranging from half-rhymed lyrics to some clever pantoums, but -- like many recent poetry collections -- elegies for parents and the Iraq invasion prevail...[It] is one of the most vibrantly intelligent first books of the past few years."

In other sections: Ursula Dubosarsky remembers the first adult novel she read as a child; Marieke Hardy searches for Mr Write at one of the State Library's "literary speed dating" nights; literary editor, Jason Steger, delves into what 2005's book sales figures tell us about our lives; Cate Kennedy examines the role of the short story; and Marion Halligan revels in the art of a good gossip.

The Australian

Nothing Australian that I noticed.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Shane Brady considers the Australian sense of humour during a review of A Serious Frolic: Essays on Australian Humour by Dr Jessica Milner Davis, of the University of NSW. According to this Sydney academic, "the roots of our sense of humour may run far deeper than the Anzacs' - and even the convicts' - gallows humour and deep disdain for authority." Charles Darwin, and early white settlers, commented on the sense of humour exhibited by Australia's indigenous inhabitants, and "it would seem Aboriginal humour has been sharpened by adversity".

The Courier-Mail

"For some readers, a new Bryce Courtenay novel is the one book they buy each year." So says Christopher Bantick in his pre-Christmas profile of the author, and review of his new novel, Sylvia. Though, with the novel being "placed at No. 6 in an anticipated Christmas book-buying spree...Sylvia is perhaps not being regarded with the same enthusiasm of earlier Courtenay novels...Part of this may be due to the subject matter. Bloodletting and menstruation in medieval history may alienate some of Courtenay's core female audience." I haven't seen any returns from Christmas sales as yet.

Australian Bookcovers #46 - The Children's Bach by Helen Garner


The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, 1984
Cover illustration by Barry Dickens
(Penguin 1985 edition)

David Malouf on Patrick White

David Malouf has another look at the work of Patrick White in the "Times Literary Supplement".

[Thanks to The Literary Saloon at the Complete Review for the link.]

Reading Victoria

The State Library of Victoria has launched its "Reading Victoria" program, which is "is a summer reading program that will take you on a journey around the state." The basic idea is for readers to vote on the book that best exemplifies a sense of place - a sense of Victoria, actually. In support of the program, and to allow for interaction with participants, they have also started a blog.

The 20 novels on the shortlist are:

Shadowboxing by Tony Birch
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
The Art of the Engine Driver by Steven Carroll
Monkey Grip by Helen Garner
Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy
Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett
My Brother Jack by George Johnston
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Stiff by Shane Maloney
Sunnyside by Joanna Murray-Smith
Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman
The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas
Players by Tony Wilson
Cafe Scheherazade by Arnold Zable

A quick run through reveals that I've read a grand total of seven of these - pathetic really.

Today's "Age" carries an excerpt from Tiffany's novel, which does not seem to be available on their website.

2007 "Age" Short Story Competition Winner

"The Age" newspaper has published the winner of this year's Short Story Competition: "From the Wreck" by Robert Williams.

The second-placed story, "Remaking the Image of the World" by Shane Jesse Christmass, will be published next week.

Poem: The Other Gum by Henry Lawson

Well, Boory, I have read your "grin",
   And listened to your whine;
I only wish you'd sent it in
   Before I printed mine.
You see, I never meant to hit
   The new-chum Jackaroo;
I only tried to write a skit
   On poets -- such as you.
We're sinners all -- the world knows that,
   But damned mean sinners some --
(The 'possum you are barking at
   Is up the other gum).

But sneer in safety if you choose
   I've no hand in the game;
I will not fight the crawler who's
   Afraid to sign his name.
I never strike without a mark --
   'Tis safer in the end;
For he who hits back in the dark
   Might chance to hurt a "friend"!

The game is stale, your jokes are flat,
   You might as well be dumb --
(The 'possum you are howling at
   Is up another gum).

First published in Truth, 1893

Favourite Reads 2006 - A Personal Perspective

My reading didn't progress as well in 2006 as in 2005. I fell about 6 books short of my 60 book goal. I suspect this occurred mainly in the last quarter of the year, after I came back from an extended holiday and discovered the joys of West Wing on DVD. Watching the first six seasons - 22 episodes a season, and 40-odd minutes an episode - chewed into my available reading time. Added to that, I had my daily commute to work curtailed and lost about 20 minutes or so reading on the train each day. It all adds up in the end.

The big plus for the year was the amount of Australian fiction I read - some 27 novels of all genres, about half the overall total - and not a dud one among the lot. Some were a little so-so but none I'd actively warn people against.

So, like last year, I'll give you the "benefit" of my reading experiences.

Australian Fiction

A big year in Australian fiction for me, and even then I didn't read M.J. Hyland's latest (which was shortlisted for the Booker), nor the MacDonald, which won the Miles Franklin Award. I tossed up between the first two listed here but finally came down the side of the Bradley, on the basis of the overall emotional response I felt to the book. I have a feeling people are going to love it or hate it. I put the James novel here - even though it won a Ned Kelly crime fiction award during the year - because I read it as a piece of literary fiction in the first instance. Interesting to note that it fits into either category.

The Resurrectionist by James Bradley
The Wing of Night by Brenda Walker
Out of the Silence by Wendy James
Soundings by Liam Davison

Australian Speculative Fiction

A number of people might argue with me that McGahan's novel is speculative fiction but it fits all of my criteria for the genre. Similarly for the Harwood. It won a major Horror award a few years back and if we use the term "speculative" to cover sf, fantasy and horror, then I feel comfortable about including it here. D.M. Cornish gets my nod, however, for producing a wonderful work of world construction, peopled by humans and monsters in such a way that it sometimes difficult to tell them apart. I'm looking forward to the others in the series.

Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling by D.M. Cornish
Underground by Andrew McGahan
The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

Australian Crime Fiction

A big year for Garry Disher (5 novels) and Shane Maloney (4 novels), and I was tempted to include all nine but thought I'd better show some sort of restraint. There are another couple of Maloney's to read before a new Murray Whelan novel is published in 2007, and I have a number of Jack Irish novels by Peter Temple to catch up with. Bodes well for another good year.

Snapshot by Garry Disher
Bad Debts by Peter Temple
Stiff by Shane Maloney
The Dragon Man by Garry Disher

Australian Non-Fiction

Hard to go past the Flannery as the most "important" book I read this year. Whether it will make a basic difference to the way Australia deals with the climate change crisis remains to be seen, yet it is possible to see attitudes changing, and this book might have had more than a little to do with it.

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

Non-Australian Fiction

I was getting guilty about being behind in my reading of the Booker winners when I picked this one up late in the year - the word was that it was pretty boring. And what a misjudgement that was. The style is reminiscent of Sebald's work, though no-one I've spoken to about it agrees with me. So what do they know?

The Sea by John Banville

Non-Australian Speculative Fiction

I've read Martin's work on and off for almost 30 years, since "A Song for Lya", but not for some time. He's been working on this epic fantasy series for about 10 years and I was reluctant to tackle it - I've met the author and big fantasy epics are not my usual reading matter. Now that I've started I have to stop myself from ordering the next four and reading them back-to-back.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Non-Australian Crime Fiction

A quick count reveals that I read 10 non-Australian crime novels during 2006 - more than I had originally thought. Ian Rankin has produced one of his best ever. The realisation that there are probably only one or two left in his Rebus series is rather bittersweet. You know the next novels are going to be terrific, you just don't want it all to end. Macbride makes a re-appearance in this category after his debut last year. He tells a good story: bloody and gruesome, personable and humorous. He would have been the pick if Rankin hadn't popped up. The Goldberg was just very funny and had the added bonus of being read in Hawaii where the bulk of the book was set.

The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin
Dying Light by Stuart Macbride
Mr Monk Goes to Hawaii by Lee Goldberg

Non-Australian Non-Fiction

Dawkins is the man of the moment with his latest non-fiction work attacking religion and the concept of God. This book was written thirty years ago and yet still seems so fresh. If I ever had any ambitions of being a chef they would be blown out of the water by Bourdain.

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

David Malouf Essay

The "Globe and Mail" out of Canada reports as follows:

"Dialogue on Democracy: The LaFontaine-Baldwin Lectures, edited by Rudyard Griffiths, Penguin Canada, 205 pages, $24

"The annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture -- established by John Ralston Saul in 2000 -- has become a national symposium for smart Canadians to reflect on the history and future of our democracy. This collection of six lectures includes essays by Ralston Saul, Alain Dubuc, Georges Erasmus, Beverley McLachlin, Louise Arbour and Australian novelist David Malouf on responsible government, nationalism, aboriginal values, human rights and the distinctively Canadian response to our differences."

AusArts India Literature Tour

Australia will feature as the Focus Country at the 2007 Kolkata Book Fair (KBF) to be held later this month. The Australian High Commission for India has a website listing the writers who will be taking part, and you can get Maro Lanagan's take on the upcoming prospects on her weblog, "Among Amid While". Other than Margo, the writers on the tour are: Thomas Keneally, Judith Beveridge, John Zubryzcki, Alison Lester, Bruce Bennett, Bem le Hunte, Luke Beesley, Kirsty Murray, Graham Reilly, Ron Pretty, Kevin Brophy, Lizz Murphy and Brook Emery.

Reviews of Australian Books #39

Donna Marchetti, in the "St. Paul Pioneer Press", looks at The Turning by Tim Winton: "Much depth is packed into Winton's spare but beautiful prose. Critics have compared this celebrated Australian's writing to John Steinbeck's in its ability to probe the frailties of ordinary people."

In "The Independent", Marianne Brace reviews The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, as it is published in the UK in both adult and YA editions. The review compares the book to Mark Haddon's successful The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: "While ambitious and knowingly post-modern - it includes typographical symbols, illustrations and handwritten passages - The Book Thief has an innocent sensibility. There are no hidden depths. It wears its heart on its sleeve, which feels entirely appropriate for a novel about a child."

Bryce Courtenay's novel Whitethorn is reviewed by Toby Clements in "The Telegraph", who compares it to the author's previous work: "It is fair to say that if you enjoyed The Power of One or, even better, if you have forgotten how much you enjoyed The Power of One, you will enjoy Whitethorn. Courtenay is a terrific storyteller and, of course, fairly well-practised at telling this particular story. If the plot ain't broke, don't fix it...Right from the start he grabs your attention in a no-nonsense fashion, like some sort of brutal wrestling hold, pitting good against evil, innocence against corruption, Briton against Boer, so that you are more or less left with no choice but to follow and find out what happens (although, if you are familiar with Courtenay's earlier work, you already know what happens)."

Sally, on her weblog "Books and Musings from Downunder", is disappointed with Chris Nyst's novel Crook as Rookwood. You might remember that this novel was announced as the co-winner of the 2006 Ned Kelly Best Novel Award (the other novel was The Broken Shore by Peter Temple). "This was not the greatest read for me. It is an Australian book - and it is written in the same style that a lot of Aussie writers think they need to write in - humorously boring. I just don't like this style and there are quite a few Aussie writers who write this way." She gave the book a D rating.

Upcoming Australian Books of Interest

"The Age" and "The Australian" have released their annual lists of upcoming books, so I thought I'd pick out the highlights as well as adding a few others that I've found. Fiction is identified with an "F".


And Hope to Die, J.M. Calder (Penguin) F


Love Without Hope, Rodney Hall (Picador) F
Another Country, Nicholas Rothwell (Black Inc)


The Time We Have Taken, Steven Carroll (Fourth Estate) F
The Pepper Gate, Genna De Bont (UQP) F
Chain of Evidence, Garry Disher (Text) F
Born to Run, Cathy Freeman (Penguin)
The Secret of Lost Things, Sheridan Hay (Fourth Estate) F
Napoleon's Double, Antoni Jack (Giramondo) F
Ochre & Rust: Objects of the Australian Frontier, Philip Jones (Wakefield Press)
The Widow and Her Hero, Tom Keneally (Random House) F
Magic's Child, Justine Larbalestier (Penguin) F
Shearwater, Andrea Mayes (Penguin) F
The Keys to the Kingdom 5: Lady Friday, Garth Nix (HarperCollins) F


Love and the Platypus, Nicholas Drayson (Scribe) F
The Raw Shark, Steven Hall (Text) F
Cultural Amnesia, Clive James (Picador)
Alice in La-La Land, Sophie Lee (Random House)
Shattered, Gabrielle Lord (Hachette) F
Turner's Paintbox, Paul Morgan (Penguin) F
The End of the World, Paddy O'Reilly (UQP) F
The Anzacs, Peter Pedersen (Penguin)
Cherry Pie, Leigh Redhead (Allen & Unwin) F


Summer Psychic, Jessica Adams (Allen & Unwin) F
I, Nigel Dorking, Mary-Anne Fahey (Penguin) F
Bali, Cameron Forbes (Black Inc)
All my Mob, Ruby Langford Ginibi (UQP)
Amongst the Dead, Robert Gott (Scribe) F
The Forgotten Children, David Hill (Random House)
Sorry, Gail Jones (Random House) F
Burning In, Mireille Juchau (Giramondo) F
Black Diamonds, Kim Kelly (HarperCollins) F
The Lamb Enters the Dreaming, Robert Kenny (Scribe)
Sucked In, Shane Maloney (Text) F
Kickbaks, Carol Overington (Allen & Unwin)
High & Dry, Guy Pearse (Penguin)
El Dorado, Dorothy Porter (Picador) F
The Night Ferry, Michael Robotham (Sphere) F
The Gospel of Gods and Crocodiles, Elizabeth Stead (UQP) F
Saturn Returns, Sean Williams (Ace) F


Aphelion, Emily Ballou (Picador) F
The River Baptists, Belinda Castles (Allen & Unwin) F
The Politics of Climate Change, Clive Hamilton (Black Inc)
Orpheus Lost, Janette Turner Hospital (Fourth Estate) F
Callisto, Torsten Krol (Picador) F
Walking to the Moon, Sean McMullen (Wildside) F
A Little Rain on Thursday, Matt Rubinstein (Text) F


final volume of The Obernewtyn Chroinicles, Isobelle Carmody (Penguin) F
The Beijing Conspiracy, Adrian d'Hage (Penguin) F
The Bright Crosses, Ross Duncan (Picador) F
My Life as a Traitor, Zahra Ghahramani (Scribe)
Vodka Doesn't Freeze, Leah Giarrantano (Random House) F
On Borrowed Time: Australia's Biodiversity Crisis, David Lindenmayer (Penguin)
Whitecap, James Woodford (Text) F


Reel Time, Bruce Beresford (HarperCollins)
The Vietnam Years, Michael Caulfield (Hachette)
Ron McCoy's Sea of Diamonds, Gregory Day (Picador) F
The Ghost's Child, Sonya Hartnett (Penguin) F
The Orphan Gunner, Sarah Knox (Giramondo) F
Bright Air, Barry Maitland (Allen & Unwin) F
Other Country, Stephen Scourfield (Allen & Unwin) F


Trout Opera, Matthew Condon (Random House) F
The Escapist, Tom Gilling (Text) F
Heaven's Net is Wide, Lian Hearn (Hodder) F
Dying: A Memoir, Donald Horne (Penguin)
My Four Aunts, Monica McInerney (Penguin) F
Heritages, Catherine Rey (Giramondo) F
Muck, Craig Sherbourne (Black Inc)
The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas (Random House) F


The Dirty Beat Venero Armanno (UQP) F
The Storm Prophet, Hector Macdnald (Penguin) F
The Mercenary & the Marine, Leigh Sales (MUP)
Blood & Tinsel, Jim Sharman (MUP)
a Peter Temple novel (Text) F
Democracy in America, Don Watson (Random House)


The Lighthouse, David Brooks (UQP) F
Landscape of Farewell, Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin) F


I get the feeling that December 2007 is just a bit too far off at this time.

Australian Bookcovers #45 - Swimming in Silk by Darren Williams


Swimming in Silk by Darren Williams, 1995
Cover design & illustration by Katerina Stratos
(Allen and Unwin 1995 edition)
This novel was the winner of the Australian/Vogel Award in 1994.

2006 - A Year in Australian Literature


  • Black Juice by Margo Lanagan, and I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak are named as Honor Books in the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
  • Dr Inga Clendinnen awarded an Officer (AO) in the General Division in the Australia Day Honors list


  • The Secret River by Kate Grenville is named the winner of the South East Asia and South Pacific Region section of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
  • Bookseller Jack Bradstreet complains in a letter to Australian Book Review about the printing of Grenville's new novel, as the book's cloth case shows no identifying type - subsequent editions reveal a return to sanity
  • Margo Lanagan's story, "Singing My Sister Down", makes the final ballot for the Short Story Category of the 2005 Nebula Awards


  • Adelaide Writers' Week runs as part of the 2006 Adelaide Festival of Arts
  • J.M. Coetzee takes up Australian citizenship in front of Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, with Cornelia Rau - falsely detained by immigration officials in 2005 - standing at his shoulder
  • 2006 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature winners announced - with Gail Jones taking out the main prize for her novel Sixty Lights
  • The Secret River by Kate Grenville is named the overall winner of the Best Book of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
  • 2006 Miles Franklin Award Longlist announced
  • After appearing on nationwide US breakfast television Markus Zusak's novel, The Book Thief, hits #1 on the Amazon book list
  • Margo Lanagan's story, "Singing My Sister Down", continues its remarkable run by being nominated for a Hugo (Science Fiction Achievement) Award. K.J. Bishiop is nominated for a John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer
  • William Elliott's manuscript, The Pilo Family Circus, is named the inaugural winner of the ABC Fiction Award


  • John Hughes is annnounced as the winner of the 2006 National Biography Award for his book The Idea of Home
  • the 2006 Ditmar Award Winners are announced with Sean Williams and Shane Dix winning the main award for their novel Geodesica: Ascent
  • Geraldine Brooks wins the 2006 Pultizer Prize for Fiction for her novel March
  • Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, complains about the modern school English syllabus, stating that it is being "dumbed down"
  • Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany is shortlisted for the 2006 Orange Prize
  • ex Miles Franklin award judge, Kerryn Goldsworthy, speculates on the make-up of the 2006 shortlist and picks the complete set which is announced a few hours later - the sky does not fall and her local betting shop remains untroubled


  • Peter Carey's ex-wife, Alison Summers, takes a swipe at the author, accusing him of using his fiction to settle some old scores. She refers to a minor character in Carey's novel Theft: A Love Story (called The Plaintiff) and announces she is also writing a novel, titled Mrs Jekyll
  • Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, is awarded the 2006 Kathleen Mitchell Award, a $7500 prize given biennially to encourage Australian authors under 30
  • the shortlist for the 2006 Australian Literary Society Gold Medal is announced
  • Brenda Walker is announced as the winner of the 2006 Nita B. Kibble Award for Women's Life Writing, for her novel The Wing of Night
  • ABC Television announces its return to literature broadcasting with the scheduling of "The First Tuesday Book Club", first program to screen in August
  • the winners of the 2006 NSW Premier's Literary Awards are announced, with Kate Grenville's The Secret River picking up the main fiction award
  • nominations open for the Melbourne Prize for Literature 2006 - Australia's richest literary prize


  • Hachette Livre announces it intends to launch a major new SF and Fantasy imprint in Australia
  • Johnno by David Malouf, his novel of post-war Brisbane, is adapted for the stage with its world premiere scheduled for this year's Brisbane Arts Festival on July 14th
  • Grant Stone's long-running, Perth-based sf and fantasy radio program, Faster Than Light, starts podcasting its programs
  • Kate Morton's novel, The Shifting Fog, is sold in 11 countries in a two-book deal approaching seven figures
  • Roger McDonald's novel, The Ballad of Desmond Kale is announced as the winner of the 2006 Miles Franklin Award


  • the ABC board decides against publishing the new Chris Masters book Jonestown, an unauthorised biography of Alan Jones, a Sydney radio presenter
  • the Australian Classification Review Board bans two radical Islamic books, prompting calls from the Australian Attorney-General for the Board to provide with even tougher laws
  • Angus & Robertson, one of Australia's largest chain of bookshops, announces plans to expand its nationwide network of 170 stores by adding another 45 over the next two years
  • Emily Maguire's first novel, Taming the Beast, is longlisted for the inaugural Dylan Thomas prize, for writers under 30


  • Marion Lennox wins the Best Traditional Romance category of the 2006 Romance Writers of America Rita awards, for her novel Princess of Convenience
  • ABC television's "First Tuesday Book Club" premieres to reasonable reviews
  • "The Australian" newspaper submits a chapter of a Patrick White novel to a number of Australian publishers under a pseudonym - none of them opt to publish the work
  • the longlist for the 2006 Man Booker Prize is released - three Australians make the list
  • Australian playwright Alex Buzo dies after a long illness, he was 62


  • the 2006 "Age" Book of the Year Award winners are announced: Velocity by Mandy Sayer for Non-Fiction; Friendly Fire by Jennifer Maiden for Poetry; and Dead Europe by Christos Tsialkos for Fiction; with Maiden also winning for Best Book
  • the 2006 Ned Kelly Award winners (for crime fiction) are anounced: Crook as Rookwood by Chris Nyst tied with The Broken Shore by Peter Temple in the Novel category; Out of the Silence by Wendy James won Best First Novel; and Packing Death by Lachlan McCullough won for Best Non-Fiction
  • the 2006 Victorian Premier's Literary Award winners are announced with Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey winning the main Fiction Award
  • Colin Thiele, award-winning children's author of such books as Storm Boy and Sun on the Stubble, dies - he was 85
  • the 2006 Man Booker Prize Shortlist is announced, with The Secret River by Kate Grenville, and Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland making the final list of six novels
  • the 2006 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards winners are announced, with The Garden Book by Brian Castro winning the main fiction award
  • the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies announces the 2005 winner of the Colin Roderick Award as The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
  • Belinda Castles wins the 2006 "The Australian"/Vogel Literary Award for her novel The River Baptists


  • Gwen Meredith, script-writer for the long-running radio serial "Blue Hills" dies at the age of 99
  • Kiran Desai's novel, The Inheritance of Loss, is announced as the winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize
  • after being denied publication by ABC Books in July, Jonestown by Chris Masters, is finally published by Allen and Unwin - it is an immediate best-seller
  • Alexandra Adornetto, a 14-year-old Melbourne high school student signs a two-book deal with publisher HarperCollins - her first novel The Shadow Thief is due to be published in the middle of 2007
  • Readings Bookshops is presented with "The Age"/D&B Business Award in the retail category


  • a large treasure trove of missing papers belonging to Patrick White is revealed to the public. 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
  • 11 Australian novels make the extended longlist for the 2007 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
  • Tim Flannery is awarded the Lannan Foundation Literary Award, for his "excellence in nonfiction".
  • Morris Lurie is announced as the winner of the 2006 Patrick White Award
  • Helen Garner wins the 2006 Melbourne Prize for Literature for a body of work that "has made an outstanding contribution to Australian literature and to cultural and intellectual life", and Christos Tsiolkas wins the best writing prize for a writer under 40, for his novel Dead Europe
  • "The New York Times" includes Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir by Robert Hughes in its list of the best 100 books of the year
  • Scholastic Australia drops plans to publish John Dale's children's thriller, Army of the Pure, citing a survey which showed that booksellers and librarians would not stock the book because the villain is a Muslim terrorist


  • the month is dominated by one best books of the year list after another
  • nominations are released for the 2006 Aurealis Awards

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.


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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February 2007 is the next archive.

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