April 2007 Archives

Clive James on Crime

In his effort to cover all forms of cultural experience, Clive James has taken a look at crime fiction in an article in the "New Yorker". It's a strange beast of a thing - starting by slagging off Henry James as being a tad lacking on the story and plot front, then running a rule over a variety of fictional detectives, from Rankin's Rebus, to Leon's Commissario Brunetti, Dibdin's Inspector Zen, and Mankell's Wallander. He praises and criticises by turns and, just when you think he's about to say something sensible, he comes up with this: "No matter how carefully depicted, whether by the omniscient author or by themselves looking at length into their shaving mirrors, these maverick detectives are too consistent to be true characters." And then he turns back to James where "The real adventure, less gripping but far more memorable, is waiting to begin again.." Which proves, yet again, that most critics don't understand the need for a balanced diet - whether it be food or fiction.

[Thanks to Peter at the "Detectives Beyond Borders" weblog for the link.]

The Grocer's Apostrophe

This is not so much a case of the "Grocer's Apostrophe" as just a state of confusion, and it's one that I haven't seen before: "...is presented with an opportunity to apply better assessment decision to its' customer base" (sic). It's interesting to note that Microsoft Word doesn't find a spelling problem with this sentence, and a grammar check suggests changing the "its'" to "it's". A lot of help that is. Leaving aside the fact that "decision" should read "decisions".

I wish people who didn't know how to use apostrophes just left them on the shelf. It would make life easier for all of us.

Poem: Limerickitis by W.T. Goodge

On the tram and the train, on the 'bus and the boat,
   You will hear it, both going and coming;
In the pub and the club and ashore and afloat --
   A perpetual humming and strumming!
From the ponderous personage, proud in his prime,
To the little kids grouped in the gutter,
They are muttering over a doggerel rhyme,
   And this is the matter they mutter:
      "There was a young man of Junee,
       Who went, in a basin, to sea;
         The basin was broken,
         And, by the same token...."
      Ta-rumtiddy, dumtiddy, dee!

First published in The Bulletin, 26 December 1907

2007 NSW Premier's Award Shortlists

The shortlists for the 2007 NSW Premier's Award have been announced.

The shortlisted works are:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($20,000)

James Bradley The Resurrectionist Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
Anson Cameron Lies I Told About a Girl Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
Peter Carey Theft: A Love Story Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Gail Jones Dreams of Speaking Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Deborah Robertson Careless Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
Alexis Wright Carpentaria Giramondo Publishing Company

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction ($20,000)

Quentin Beresford Rob Riley: an Aboriginal Leader's Quest for Justice Aboriginal Studies Press
Janine Burke The Gods of Freud: Sigmund Freud's Art Collection Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Michael Gurr Days Like These Melbourne University Publishing Ltd
Robert Hughes Things I Didn't Know: a Memoir Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Sylvia Martin Ida Leeson: A Life; not a blue-stocking lady Allen & Unwin
Chris Masters Jonestown: the Power and the Myth of Alan Jones Allen & Unwin

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($15,000)

Robert Adamson The Goldfinches of Baghdad Flood Editions
Laurie Duggan The Passenger University of Queensland Press
Les Murray The Biplane Houses Black Inc.
John Tranter Urban Myths: 210 Poems University of Queensland Press
Simon West First Names Puncher and Wattmann
Fay Zwicky Picnic Giramondo Publishing Company

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature ($15,000)

Michael Gerard Bauer Don't Call Me Ishmael! Omnibus Books
Judith Clarke One Whole and Perfect Day Allen & Unwin
Ursula Dubosarsky The Red Shoe Allen & Unwin
Barry Jonsberg Dreamrider Allen & Unwin
Michael Parker Doppelganger Penguin Group (Australia)
Shaun Tan The Arrival Hachette Livre Australia

Patricia Wrightson Prize ($15,000)

Deborah Carlyon & John Danalis (illus) Loku and the Shark Attack University of Queensland Press
Rosanne Hawke & Robert Ingpen (illus) Mustara Hachette Livre Australia
Doug MacLeod I'm Being Stalked by a Moonshadow Penguin Group (Australia)
Laurel Nannup A Story to Tell University of Western Australia Press
Narelle Oliver Home Omnibus Books
Jan Ormerod Water Witcher Little Hare Books

Community Relations Commission Award ($15,000)

Peter Browne The Longest Journey: Resettling Refugees from Africa University of NSW Press Ltd
Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen Voyage of Hope: Vietnamese Australian
Women's Narratives
Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd
Wendy Orr & Donna Rawlins (illus) Across the Dark Sea National Museum of Australia Press
Alice Pung Unpolished Gem Black Inc.
Cassandra Pybus Black Founders: the Unknown Story of Australia's First Black Settlers University of New South Wales Press Ltd
Shaun Tan The Arrival Hachette Livre Australia

Gleebooks Prize ($10,000)

Rod Barton The Weapons Detective: the Inside Story of Australia 's Top Weapons Inspector Black Inc. Agenda
Frank Brennan Acting on Conscience: How Can We Responsibly Mix Law, Religion and Politics? University of Queensland Press
Patricia Edgar Bloodbath: a Memoir of Australian Television Melbourne University Publishing Ltd
Gideon Haigh Asbestos House: the secret history of James Hardie Industries Scribe Publications Pty Ltd
K. S. Inglis Whose ABC? the Australian Broadcasting Corporation 1983-2006 Black Inc.
Antony Loewenstein My Israel Question Melbourne University Publishing Ltd

UTS Award for New Writing ($5,000)

No short list with this Award. Winner will be announced 29 May 2007

Play Award ($15,000)

Christopher Aronsten Human Resources Darlinghurst Theatre Company
Jane Bodie A Single Act University of Melbourne / MTC,
Beckett Theatre, CUB Malthouse
Campion Decent Embers Hothouse Theatre & Sydney Theatre Company
Jane Malone The Rumour The Crypt Theatre
Tommy Murphy Holding the Man Griffin Theatre Company / Currency Press
Debra Oswald The Peach Season Griffin Theatre Company

Script Writing Award ($15,000)

Tony Ayres The Home Song Stories Porchlight Films/ Big and Little Films
David Caesar & Fiona Seres Dangerous, Episode 7 Southern Star Entertainment P/L
Marc Rosenberg The December Boys Becker Entertainment
Keith Thompson Clubland RB Films Pty Ltd
Keith Thompson He's Coming South Animax Films Pty Ltd
Katherine Thomson Answered By Fire â€" Part Two Beyond Simpson Le Mesurier, Muse Entertainment, Terra Rossa Pictures

The NSW Premier's Translation Prize ($15,000)

May-Brit Akerholt
Harry Aveling
Christine Cornell
John Nieuwenhuizen
Simon Patton

Australian Literary Monuments #15 - Christopher Brennan


Christopher Brennan plaque, Circular Quay, Sydney.

Poem: The Tree of ANZAC by C.J. Dennis

I sing not the glory of war, this day of all days;
I hymn dead or living no more with inadequate praise;
Nor of valor nor sorrow I sing, not of pride - let it be
I uphold a more radiant thing          I sing of a Tree!

Brown soldiers, like blown autumn leaves, are gathered again,
In sight of a city that grieves, remembering pain,
In sight of a nation denied forgetfulness yet
Proud soldiers, who know in their pride
         We can not forget.

Brown leaves that yet cleave to the Tree -- grave soldiers that march,
Yet living -- are these what you see 'neath heaven's grey arch?
Grey soldiers see you, yet alive, where veterans tread?
Yet, walking by one man in five,
         I vision the dead.

Grey phantoms that march by their side -- grey row upon row,
Proud ghosts that exultantly stride, and sing as they go
A song that is never of earth, for mortal man's breath --
Of a Tree, and a wonderful birth
         Comprehended in death.

"Brown soldiers, like blown autumn leaves, fall, drift, and are gone.
Yet over a land that still grieves, the Tree burgeons on.
The Tree, that shall never repine, from seed that we set,
Has grown to an earnest, a sign
         You can not forget.

"You cannot forget, tho' the years shall soften their grief;
Tho' coming of wintertime sears each yellowing leaf
You cannot forget; tho' the pain shall pass with the debt.
Exultantly rings our refrain:
         'You can not forget!'

"Speak not of a vain sacrifice. We went, nothing loth,
To pay but a trivial price that this might have growth
No tale of material things may set forth its worth;
Deep-rooted, for ever it clings
         In our holy earth.

"Eternally this is our dower and splendid reward
Who died in one turbulent hour by shot and by sword,
Who fell but to nurture the Tree, and rendered each soul
Contented for ever to see
         A nation made whole.

"We sing of the Tree that has grown to glorious gain
From see we have willingly sown in travail and pain
For us be not ever afraid for living, still fret;
For they who will bask in its shade
         They shall not forget."

When we that yet linger are dust blown hence from the scene,
Still, surely the God of the just shall keep the Tree green
When they that come after, grown old -- vast myriads yet
The green tree of Anzac behold,
         They shall not forget.

First published in The Herald, 25 April 1930

[Today is ANZAC Day.]

War Stories on TV

For Australian readers Jennifer Byrne, host of First Tuesday Book Club, is tonight hosting four writers of war stories on ABC TV at 10pm. The writers: Geraldine Brooks, Les Carlyon, General Peter Cosgrove, and Rowley Richards.

The program uses the same set as the First Tuesday show but, from the previews shown so far, someone should have given Carlyon and Cosgrove different shirts - different jackets and/or different trousers might have helped as well. Sitting them next to each other makes them look like a little and large comedy act.

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #13

The Age

The big fiction review this week concerns Love and the Platypus by Nicholas Drayson. Peter Pierce who normally writes interesting, accessible reviews seems oddly uninformative this time round. Beyond a plot summary and a few points of discussion along the way, Pierce doesn't seem to get to grips with what the novel was attempting to say. Is the book worth your time? From this review I couldn't really determine.

Donald Friend was a major Australian painter of the middle to latter part of the 20th century. He seems to have maintained a journal habit thoughout his working life and the National Library of Australia has been publishing a set of his diaries with the 4th and final volume in the series having just hit the shelves.

Ian Britain attempts to come to grips with it: "In the bookshops you'll find it has a sticky label fixed to the jacket: 'The Bali Diaries'. As it turns out, there's a lot more to this final volume of the National Library's monumental edition of Donald Friend's personal journals. It spans some 22 years in the life of one of our most illustrious artists (visual and literary artists, as the journals themselves amply attest), taking us up to within a few months of his death in 1989. For only about half of this time -- the first half -- was he in Bali."

Sheridan Hay's novel, The Secret of Lost Things, is one of those books which occasionally gets me accused of claiming a level of "Australianness" that doesn't actually exist. But a check on the good old web leads me to the view that the author was born here, and the review by Christopher Bantick does state that the book's action starts in Tasmania. It may end up elsewhere, but that's good enough for me. Unfortunately, the review is a bit like Pierce's earlier, descriptive but inconclusive.

The Australian

Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, wife of Keith and mother of Rupert, is one of Melbourne's grand old ladies. She is admired across all spectra of society for her generosity and charity work. She has always struck me as someone whose feet are firmly planted in the ground. And the reason for this might be due to the connection she has had with her family home and the garden that surrounds it. How this garden came into existence is the subject of Anne Latreille's work Garden of a Lifetime: Dame Elisabeth Murdoch at Cruden Farm which is reviewed by Mark McGinness. "In Garden of a Lifetime, Anne Latreille, an established garden writer and former gardening editor of 'The Age', has presented Cruden Farm not only in profile -- as it is today -- but as a biography, through the remarkable stewardship of its owner, Elisabeth

Mary Rose Liverani has a look at Portrait of a Friendship: The Letters of Barbara Blackman and Judith Wright 1950-2000 : "The two friends' letters offer a unique portrait of a period, and of two outstanding women who, despite a fierce
attachment to domestic life, became significant public figures. Australia owes Blackman and Wright a debt of gratitude for having maintained their correspondence so assiduously and for their farsighted exertions to recover their letters for posterity."

William McInnis did it recently and now actor Sophie Lee has written her first novel, Alice in La La Land, which is reviewed by Patricia Anderson. "In a postmodern world of indecipherable conclusions, a fast-paced romp with a clear moral and a happy ending is a delight. Actor Sophie Lee's first novel, Alice in La La Land, introduces a natural storyteller with a firm grasp of the essential differences between Australian and American culture, or at least that deformed pocket of it called Hollywood...Woven through this high-spirited narrative are snatches of dialogue Alice has to memorise and deliver from scripts, and they are uniformly laughable: offered by formless, one-dimensional characters with the usual Hollywood tics and obsessions. Suffice to say, the story races to an entirely satisfying denouement, the kind that made the movie The Castle, in which Lee appeared, such a memorable tale."

The Sydney Morning Herald

You may recall that Will Elliot won the 2006 ABC Fiction Award for his novel The Pilo Family Circus. One of the novels that was highly commended in that competition, The Crimes of Billy Fish by Sarah Hopkins, has now also been published by ABC Books and is reviewed by author Emily Maguire. "On one level this book can be read as a damning indictment of the social welfare and criminal justice systems...There is more to this novel than social critique, however. It is also an examination of grief as something not to be overcome but something one must learn to integrate into everyday life. The comfort and support damaged people sometimes offer each other is a thread of hope running through this necessarily grim book."

Political curiosity Pauline Hanson has published her autobiography Untamed and Unashamed and Norman Abjorensen gives it the once over. I feel a complete and utter lack of interest in either the book or its subject. Listed for some stupid reason that I'll probably regret later.

Miles Franklin Award Shortlist Reviews

"The Courier-Mail" carried reviews of three of the novels on the Miles Franklin Award shortlist. Which raises the question: why not all four?

Anyway, Carpentaria, by Alexis Wright, is reviewed by Diane Dempsey: "It is Wright's teasing, seductive, cackling voice which finally gives Carpentaria its authenticity... It is a voice which carries within it the knowledge and burden of her characters' history and the supremacy of spirituality to a mob of Aborigines who deem it wise to make their home on a rubbish tip in the small coastal town of Desperance in the Gulf of Carpentaria...On balance the book's sense of mischief is subdued by its epic design and poetic ambitions. It asks for patience of the reader in order to follow the meandering line of the plot...But the one thing Wright never does in this book of her people is proselytise."

Peter Carey's Theft: A Love Story is reviewed by Rosemary Sorenson: "Recklessly funny is the way the publishers have chosen to describe Peter Carey's new novel, Theft...But the 63-year-old was not, it appears, in a wholly jolly mood when he wrote his story about a fading artist and his scary half-wit brother...The clash of desires -- between naughty and censorious -- crushes this, Carey's eighth, novel...[the main] characters made for loving...That wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact they are not made properly for living either. That is, they don't come fully alive in Carey's ferocious, exhausting, adrenalin-rush blast of a novel."

And Careless, by Deborah Robertson, is examined by Bron Sibree, in what is more an interview than a review.

Australian Bookcovers #61 - The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard


The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard, 2003
Cover image: Burning of the Houses of Parliament - J.M.W. Turner
(Virago 2003 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 2004, and the US National Book Award in 2003.]

Dorothy Porter

On the eve of the publication of her new verse novel, Dorothy Porter is interviewed in "The Australian" by Corrie Perkin. The novel, El Dorado which is published on May 1, takes us back to the territory of Porter's earlier successful work, The Monkey's Mask: a novel I was very impressed with a couple of years back.

In the new book, we re-visit the themes of murder, child abduction and friendships that are tested. If it's anything like the earlier work there is much to look forward to.

Miles Franklin Award Commentary

Peter Craven is the critic of choice this year for "The Age" to continue questioning the Miles Franklin Award and its entry criteria - last year it was Jane Sullivan on this topic. Craven's piece, on the op-ed pages of the paper, carries the title "Reward the best novel, not the most Australian one", which pretty much sums up the arguments he raises. The trouble is that is not what the prize is for. But more of that later.

Craven is one of Australia's best literary critics around and does have some interesting points to make, not that I agree with all of them. First, and foremost among them, is his statement that "The Miles Franklin has always been a bit of a litmus test for our impulse as a nation towards cultural insecurity of one form or another." The "cultural cringe" in other words. Didn't this go out with flared jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts? I'm not sure this sense of insecurity or inferiority exists much outside mainstream media these days. A similar assertion could be levelled at this weblog - the "culture insecurity" part anyway. Just because you wish to publicise one aspect of literature does not mean that you aim to diminish any other parts. It's just a means of saying "hey, look at this, you might enjoy it". It should not imply anything else. A few weeks back I quoted Neal Stephenson when he said: "Lack of critical respect means nothing to sci-fi's creators and fans. They made peace with their own dorkiness long ago." Thirty years back Ursula Le Guin called for sf to drag itself up out of the ghetto and embrace the world. She implied that by doing so it would gain the level of critical acceptance that it deserved. It took maybe ten to fifteen years for that to occur, though whether or not it gained a level of "respectability" it may also have desired is another question altogether. I, for one, tend to think it didn't. But, you know what? I also think the sf community doesn't care any more.

The same should be true of Australian literature. Each year I find that the bulk of the Miles Franklin Award shortlist could replace the novels selected for the Man Booker Prize and you wouldn't see much of a drop in quality. It's not a question of "respectability" or "critical acceptance" any more. It's now a problem with promotion and publicity. How do we get the best of Australian fiction out there in front of the world's readers? Especially when we are so far from literature's English-language hotspots of London and New York. By extolling the virtues of awards such as the Miles Franklin might be a good place to start.

Contrary to Craven's earlier statement implying that the award praises the most Australian work on the shortlist, the conditions talk of a work of literature which reflects Australians or the Australian way of life. It doesn't have to be Crocodile Dundee or Chips Rafferty, it can quite easily be Gail Jones's writer living in Paris, or Peter Carey's painter stuck in northern New South Wales attempting to paint. It's the quality that counts.

Craven concludes: "The imagination cannot be tethered by nationalism, even though the fruits of the literary imagination -- the aching, erotic nostalgia of David Malouf's Queensland, the sensuous slap of the sun on Carlton streets in Helen Garner -- may have a peculiar poignancy to us because we live in this place. It doesn't make them better, it simply makes them ours." It does not make them better, but it also doesn't make them worse either.

Locus Awards

The Locus Awards are run by "Locus" magazine (the major newsletter of the sf and fantasy fields), and this year's finalists have been announced.

Of special interest for Australian readers is the Best Young Adult shortlists which contains two Australina novels:

The Keys to the Kingdom: Sir Thursday, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin; The Chicken House)
Magic Lessons, Justine Larbalestier (Penguin/Razorbill)
Spirits That Walk in Shadow, Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Viking)
Voices, Ursula K. Le Guin (Orion Children's; Harcourt)
Wintersmith, Terry Pratchett (Doubleday UK; HarperTempest)

Nix and Larbalestier are up against some heavy competition in Le Guin and Pratchett, but we wish them well. Winners in all categories will be announced at a dinner held at the Science Fiction Museum's Hall of Fame, in Seattle on June 16th.

Poem: A Poetaster's Dirge by W.T. Goodge

      I can't be a poet;
      I haven't the time.
      And few papers pay for
      A serious rhyme.
      But, were I a poet
      To labor at night
      On gloomy forebodings,
      'Tis this I would write:--

The sunlight grew fainter behind the dark ranges,
   The cry of the curlew came clear through the trees;
The jackass was sounding his sunset exchanges,
   And soft sounds of nightfall were born on the breeze.

And I at the camp-fire was gazing, and dreaming
   Of days in the future still hid from view;
In doubt if success in the embers were gleaming,
   Or failure were writ in the sparks as they flew.

The up-curling smoke of the camp-fire grew whiter;
   There came forth a vision that whispered,
"O, friend! Why fret if the future be darker or brighter;
   If bright or if dark, 'tis the same in the end!

"Be poor or wealthy; be sick or be healthy;
   Be sad or be merry; to what does it tend?
The grim hand of Fate is as certain as stealthy!
   Poor Mortal! 'Tis ever the same in the end!

"Is happiness found in the glory or splendor
   That Favor and Fortune to mortals may send?
Does Misery dwell in the creatures who lend her
   Their tears? It is ever the same in the end!"

The coo-ee rang sharp, and the vision vanished,
   I answered the call of my mate from the bend;
But never the thought has been utterly banished:
   The lot of us all is the same in the end!

      I can't be a poet
      I told you before.
      I have to be keeping
      The wolf from the door.
      But were I a poet,
      And gave you my best,
      I'd fill you with sadness
      And gloom like the rest!

First published in The Bulletin, 3 August 1905

Just Some General News Items

Ron, the creator and co-ordinator of the "Patrick White Readers' Group" weblog, has decided to shut the group down. It seems that a call for a show of interest in another White title returned only two replies. Ron's done a good job with this, and it's a pity to see it go, but we all need to recognise when an idea has run its course.

Sarah Weinman, on the "Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind", points to an interview with Anthony Cheetham on the Bookseller website. Who's he you may well ask? Well, he's the owner of Quercus Publishing, the publishing house that released Peter Temple's novel The Broken Shore in the UK. I can't access the Bookseller site as it is subscription-only, but the short piece on Weinman's weblog puts the Temple publication into some context. It also mentions that Quercus will publish Adrian Hyland's novel Diamond Dove. And if you access the publisher's website and have a wander through the publications list you'll see that they are also publishing In the Evil Day (which my father told me was better than Broken Shore) and a Jack Temple Omnibus, both by Peter Temple. A bit further down we see that the house will also be releasing a Parker Omnibus by Richard Stark. Now we just need someone to send Cheetham a copy of one of Disher's Wyatt novels.

From an email I recently received: "Australian Book Review and the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) have much pleasure in announcing the second Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay, one of the world's most lucrative essay prizes. The winner will receive $10,000. "All non-fiction subjects are eligible, from memoir to literary studies to politics to natural history. "The closing date is August 31, and the winner will be announced in December 2007." The competition conditions are available from the ABR website.

Michelle de Kretser

Michelle de Kretser, author of The Rose Grower and The Hamilton Case has sold a new novel. The following comes from the "Magical Musings" weblog: Title: THE LOST DOG Author: Michelle de Kretser Agent: Sarah Lutyens at Lutyens & Rubinstein (NA). UK rights previously to Chatto & Windus; Australian rights to Allen & Unwin. Editor: Pat Strachan at Little, Brown Blurb: Concerning the collision of modernity and the past, the primal and the civilized, home and exile.

On Other Blogs #24

Judith Ridge casts her eye over the recently released Children's Book Council of Australia - Book of the Year Shortlists. She's surprised at some of the omissions.

Damien continues his good work on his weblog "Crime Down Under", this time alerting us to the crime novels of Robert Gott: "In Good Murder he was unleashed on the unsuspecting Queensland community of Maryborough. In A Thing Of Blood he was back home in Melbourne but no less despised. He is William Power: actor, private inquiry agent and, yes, total dickhead. Robert Gott has sent Power north into the wilds of Australia's top end for the 3rd mystery in the series titled Amongst the Dead (pub. Scribe Publications)."

Sean Williams thinks he's talking about fellow writers when he says: "There's always someone who won't take criticism. There's always someone trying to please everyone. There's always someone who over-researches. There's always someone who's blocked. There's always someone who thinks they know everything. There's always someone doing it for the money. There's always someone who reaches right into your heart and makes you want to weep--or laugh, or dance, or hide--and strangely they're often the ones who give it away all too soon, as though they've over-generously expended everything they had in a few short pieces, whetting your appetite for more that never comes." Sounds like my work, and probably yours too.

2007 Miles Franklin Award Shortlist

The shortlisted works for the 2007 Miles Franklin Award have been announced.

The shortlist:

Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey
Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones
Careless by Deborah Robertson
Carpentaria by Alexis Wright

You read it here first: author David Whish-Wilson correctly picked the full list in a comment to this weblog earlier today. Kerryn Goldsworthy picked three of the four on her weblog, but was correct in specifying that the judges would only release four works on the shortlist. I, of course, got nowhere, suggesting there might be an all-female list. Bloody Carey.

Reviews of Australian Books #51

"Pure poetry" says Tee Shiao Eek, in a review of David Malouf's short story collection Every Move You Make. "In each story, Malouf's characters are commonplace people, captured at a special moment in their lives and immortalised by his elegant prose...As each story ends, you breathe a slow sigh, sharing Malouf's sense of closure. For his characters, another day hovers on the horizon...They float towards it, somehow knowing that even when they are gone, some things will remain forever."

Damien, on his weblog "Crime Down Under", extols the virtues of a new crime novel, An Easeful Death by Felicity Young. The author "manages to set up an array of plausible suspects who all come under close scrutiny as possible killers without ever giving away the identity until she's well and truly ready. I reckon this is an under-rated aspect of good mysteries, but Felicity achieved it with style." The author hails from Western Australia and this is her second novel after 2005's A Certain Malice.

The first novel by Carol Lefvre, Nights in the Asylum is reviewed by Mary Manning in "Eureka Street". "In Nights in the Asylum, Lefevre handles themes of grief and loss, displacement and memory with authority and confidence. As the title might suggest, the novel concerns characters at low points in their lives. However the book is saved from being a dark novel by moments where care and love bring positive change: an asylum seeker is given asylum, a grieving mother is comforted and a victim of domestic violence is sheltered."

J.M. Coetzee's Inner Workings: Literary Essays, 2000-2005, has made its way to India and is examined by Aveek Sen in "The Telegraph" from Calcutta. The reviewer makes damn good point about the book early on, one that could only be gleaned by a familiarity with the author's previous works. "'Too many continents,' explains J.M. Coetzee's eponymous, Australian writer-heroine in Elizabeth Costello. Elizabeth is trying to tell her sister, a nun in Africa, why she, Elizabeth, is so exhausted: 'Too many continents,' she repeats. 'Too many burdens.' There has been no dearth of continents in Coetzee's own life, fiction and critical writing. Yet, it is difficult to imagine such an utterance made by the writer himself in his own voice. Coetzee, one feels, would never allow himself such a lapse into self-pitying, self-revealing fatigue." And while the rest of the review shows similar evidence of research it ends abruptly, with not much of a conclusion and no summing up. Pity, one more paragraph and this could have been a quite excellent piece of work.

2007 Miles Franklin Award Shortlist (Tomorrow)

The shortlisted works for the 2007 Miles Franklin Award are due to be released tomorrow. Of the 8 novels on the longlist, 5 are by women writers. What chance they sweep all spots? Reasonably high I would suspect. I wait with high expectation for Kerryn Goldsworthy's choices after she picked the field last year. (Nothing like a little pressure to heighten the critical senses.)

Carol Lefevre

Carol Lefevre is a South Australian writer whose first novel, Nights in the Asylum, has just been published in Australia, and which I have under review. While not an interview as such, Kay Sexton, on her weblog "Writing Neuroses...mine are rare, yours may be legion", intersperses some comments by Lefevre amongst her own comments on the weblog's main topic.

2007 Children's Book Council of Australia - Book of the Year Shortlists

The shortlisted works for the 2007 Children's Book Council of Australia - Book of the Year Awards have been announced.

Book of the Year: Older Readers

Bauer, Michael Gerard Don't Call Me Ishmael! Omnibus, Scholastic
Clarke, Judith One Whole and Perfect Day Allen & Unwin
Cornish, D. M. Monster Blood Tattoo: Book One Foundling Omnibus, Scholastic
Dubosarsky, Ursula The Red Shoe Allen & Unwin
Lanagan, Margo Red Spikes Allen & Unwin
Shanahan, Lisa My Big Birkett Allen & Unwin

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Bateson, Catherine Being Bee University of Queensland Press
Flynn, Pat Illus: Jellett, Tom The Tuckshop Kid University of Queensland Press
French, Jackie Macbeth and Son A&R, HarperCollins
Griffiths, Andy Illus: Denton, Terry The Cat on the Mat is Flat Pan Macmillan
Laguna, Sofie Bird & Sugar Boy Penguin Books
Millard, Glenda Illus: King, Stephen Michael Layla, Queen of Hearts ABC Books

Book of the Year: Early Childhood

Allen, Pamela Grandpa and Thomas and the Green Umbrella Penguin/Viking
Costain, Meredith Illus: Allen, Pamela Doodledum Dancing Penguin/Viking
Fox, Lee Illus:Wilcox, Cathy Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair Lothian Books
Gleeson, Libby Illus: Blackwoood, Freya Amy & Louis Scholastic Press
Lee, Lyn Illus: Gamble, Kim Eight Omnibus, Scholastic
Wild, Margaret Illus: Niland, Deborah Chatterbox Penguin/Viking

Picture Book of the Year

McKimmie, Chris Brian Banana Duck Sunshine Yellow Allen & Unwin
Oliver, Narelle Home Omnibus, Scholastic
Ormerod, Jan Water Witcher Little Hare Books
Rippin, Sally Text: Metzenthen, David The Rainbirds Lothian Books
Spudvilas, Anne Text Wild, Margaret Woolvs in the Sitee Penguin/Viking
Tan, Shaun The Arrival Lothian Books

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Davidson, Leon Red Haze: Australians & New Zealanders in Vietnam Black Dog Books
Fenton, Corinne Illus: Gouldthorpe, Peter Queenie: One Elephant's Story Black Dog Books
Hocknull, Scott and Cook, Alex Amazing Facts about Australian Dinosaurs Steve Parish Publishing
Hoopmann, Kathy All Cats have Asperger Syndrome Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Norman, Mark The Penguin Book: Birds in Suits Black Dog Books
Tonkin, Rachel Leaf Litter A&R, HarperCollins

The Book of the Year winners will be announced during Children's Book Week celebrations running from 18th - 24th August 2007.

Australian Bookcovers #60 - The White Earth by Andrew McGahan


The White Earth by Andrew McGahan, 2004
Cover design: Nada Backovic
(Allen & Unwin 2004 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 2005.]

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #12

The Age

Fiona Gruber reviews two new Australian novels, and, while you get the impression she thinks they are both relatively successful, you have to read between the lines to decipher that. "Running away, both literally and figuratively, features in Provenance by Jane Messer, and The Pepper Gate by Genna de Bont. The novels have other themes in common -- both protagonists are artists and journeys between Queensland and Victoria assume metaphysical significance. And at the heart of both is the compulsion of flight, and the necessity of facing up to its consequence." You get a reasonable plot summary but not much of a statement of worth.

Two memoirs of Holocaust survivors are contrasted in author profiles by Angela Bennie: East of Time by Jacob Rosenberg and Parallel Lines by Peter Lantos. "Although their subject matter is at a fundamental level the same, in formal terms the two books couldn't be more different. "Rosenberg's East of Time is structured like a mosaic that works on the reader as a poem does: its clusters of events and characters, its emotional tones and rhythms, all seem to be linked together as if by an invisible thread...Lantos' Parallel Lines, on the other hand, is written in a much more direct, descriptive prose. It presents the world as it is, rather than one filtered through a lyrical, fanciful imagination."

The Sydney Morning-Herald

Thomas Shapcott is quite taken by Portrait of a Friendship: the letters of Barbara Blackman and Judith Wright (1950-2000) which was edited by Bryony Cosgrove. "This huge volume is a portrait of two people. Letters are intimate things but they also record, at their best, the fine nuances of feeling, of interrelationships, and are (seen over a long period, as here) flagposts of a journey. In this case, of two journeys. "Coming hot on the heels of the National Library of Australia's massive collection of Judith Wright's letters, With Love and Fury, the present volume gives us a portrayal of Wright not only as a poet but as an increasingly dedicated activist for environmental and Aboriginal matters." At 638 pages it's quite a hefty volume.

The Courier-Mail

Adair Jones finds that Tom Keneally's novel, The Widow and Her Hero "gives us a glimpse into the cold shadow of a war that has never quite disappeared."

Shane Strange comes to the realisation that some "the most interesting writing happening in Australia is at the level of Young Adult fiction" in his review of After January by Nick Earls.

And Sue Jones enjoyed Helen Garner and the Meaning of Everything by Alex Jones. "If you enjoy a cornucopia of ideas and digressions, then you will enjoy this novel. Those with more knowledge of literary theory and semiotics will probably have a greater appreciation of the author's satirical reach. "For me, an author who has his protagonist follow the trail of rabbits, cooked and uncooked, through Helen Garner's books is an author with his tongue firmly in his cheek."

2007 Williamstown Literary Festival

Details of the 2007 Williamstown Literary Festival have now been released: "Children's book illustrator Leigh Hobbs, actor and author William McInnes, and other notables from the world of journalism, publishing and writing including Garry Disher, Adrian Hyland, Gideon Haigh, Alice Pung, Alan Atwood, Jeremy Koren and Andy Griffiths are all on the bill for this year's event." The festival runs from Friday 4 May, to Sunday 6 May.

The New Space Opera

A while back I wondered if Australia was undergoing a re-surgence in "space opera" - a sub-genre of science fiction. Jason Nahrung, in "The Courier-Mail", certainly seems to think so.

For those wondering what this is all about, Wikipedia says the following: "Space opera is a subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes romantic adventure, and larger-than-life characters often set against vast exotic settings...'Space opera' was originally a derogatory term, a variant of 'horse opera' and 'soap opera,' coined in 1941 by Wilson Tucker to describe what he called 'the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space-ship yarn' -- i.e., substandard science fiction. 'Space opera' is still sometimes used with a pejorative sense...Eventually, though, a fondness for the best examples of the genre led to a reevaluation of the term and a resurrection of the subgenre's traditions. Writers such as Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson had kept the large-scale space adventure form alive through the 1950s, followed by (to name only a few exemplars) M. John Harrison and C. J. Cherryh in the 1970s and Iain M. Banks, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Paul McAuley in the 1980s. By this time, 'space opera' was for many readers no longer a term of insult but a simple description of a particular kind of science fiction adventure story."

The best example of the genre on televison at present is the updated version of Battlestar Galatica, but, as Nahrung notes, it's not only on the small screen that space opera is making a come-back. "With several book releases looming on the horizon, the next 12 months will be big for Australian space opera.

"Brisbane writer Marianne de Pierres launches her universe-straddling series with Dark Space in May, and fellow Queenslander Sonny Whitelaw has the latest in her Stargate SG-1 novels -- Roswell, co-written with Alice Springs writer Jennifer Fallon -- hitting the shelves this month. Perth editor Jonathan Strahan combines with America's Gardner Dozois to launch an anthology of space opera short stories in June, and Adelaide's Sean Williams puts musician Gary Numan in space with two stories set in his Astropolis universe, and returns to the Star Wars universe with a game tie-in."

Poem: Americant by Dido (Edward Dyson)

Australians, a stern appeal,
   A cry of anguish thrown to you:
To native weaknesses be leal,
   Assuming you must have a few.
In any circumstance at all,
   When trouble takes you by the throat,
Don't, don't remark with basal drawl:
   "It gets my goat!"
And never wail in accents dree:
   "Oh, gee!"

In asking questions at a pinch
   Don't say: "You get me?" and so on,
Nor speak of something as a "cinch,"
   Nor swear "By Hee!" nor say "Dog-gone!"
If, meaning woman, you say "dame,"
   I'll hate you all till kingdom come,
To say "some girl's" a thing of shame,
   And "on the bum"
Is worse; while loathly is the cry
   "Wise guy!"

You say "Poor simp" more than enough;
   Too often murmur "He's a mutt,"
And talk of "jays" and "bug-house stuff,"
   And dub a lunatic a "nut."
Don't speak of "boobs" -- it makes you one --
   Nor "Can that stuff!" with foolish grins.
Sin if you must, but don't my son,
   Sin others' sins.
Let all the vices be home-grown --
   Your own.

First published in The Bulletin, 11 September 1919

2007 Man Booker International Prize

The Man Booker International Prize judging panel overnight released its list of authors under consideration for the 2007 prize. The 15 authors on the list are:
Chinua Achebe
Margaret Atwood
John Banville
Peter Carey
Don DeLillo
Carlos Fuentes
Doris Lessing
Ian McEwan
Harry Mulisch
Alice Munro
Michael Ondaatje
Amos Oz
Philip Roth
Salman Rushdie
Michel Tournier

As Chris Boyd points out there isn't much cross-over with the 2005 list, which probably indicates different preferences from the judging panel more than anything else. This prize awards a body of work by an author, rather than a specific book, it is awarded every 2 years and is open to all authors worldwide. While there doesn't seem to be any specific date mentioend for the announcement of the prize winner, we can expect to hear the news in June if the 2005 prize is anything to go on.

Clive James - Cultural Critic

Allen Barra, in the webzine "Salon", describes Clive James thus: "That James is at home with subjects as light-years apart as Liza Minnelli and Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one indication why he is the greatest living cultural critic. Many serious critics waste needless time and energy trying to justify their intellectual curiosity regarding things pop. James, who made much of his early reputation covering television, bites into the pop cultural hot dog with unapologetic relish." This, of course, is in response to the publication of James's latest volume, Cultural Amnesia, a collection of over a hundred essays on the lives of various famous, and not so famous, individuals: James's personal wikipedia, if you like.

Barra's description of James may be hard to justify but his final conclusion about the book is probably a start: "One of the things that distinguishes Cultural Amnesia from the finger-pointing, eat-your-bean-sprouts tomes about canons and multiculturalism is that James doesn't make you feel guilty, he makes you feel hungry."

Mark Sarvas, on "The Elegant Variation" weblog, wonders if Barra's piece is just too overblown to be of any worth.

Publishers Weekly - Hot Books for Summer

Each year "Publishers Weekly" provides a list of books to be read over the long, lazy days of summer - the northern summer that is.

This year the list includes The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan.

Australian Literary Monuments #14 - Peter Corris


Peter Corris plaque, Circular Quay, Sydney.

Reviews of Australian Books #50

Colleen Mondor reviews Kittyhawk Down by Garry Disher in the Spring 2007 edition of "Eclectica Magazine" (about half-way down the page). The reviewer calls it a "classic police procedural" which "works very well": "Kittyhawk is a relatively dark tale with more than one murder and even a missing child worked into the breakneck plot. Along the way author Garry Disher reveals much about each of the cops, including who is having a family crisis, who is having a personal financial crisis and who is having questions about his manhood and morality. Pile on all of that Challis and his own romantic issues and you might wonder how Disher holds together so many different characters with so many different problems. Fear not, though -- he's just doing something that very few mystery authors do; he's giving the reader a team approach for the good guys as they face a slew of seemingly unrelated crimes perpetrated by an unknown number of bad guys."

Two Australian sf novels are reviewed by Sue Bursztynski, Prisoner of Quentaris by Anna Ciddor, and Hal Spacejock #3: Just Desserts by Simon Haynes. Both are books in continuing series, with the only difference being that the Quentaris novels are written by a number of different authors. Of Ciddor's novel, Bursztynski says: "The entire series is great fun and the book covers feature gorgeous art by Australia's top cover artists. It introduces children to fantasy without patronising them. Best of all, the books are stand-alone and don't have to be read in any particular order...This is a delightful addition to the series. Children love series fiction and there are, so far, nearly two dozen in this one. They are not only a good introduction to fantasy, but a good introduction to the authors, if the young readers haven't discovered them yet." Hal Spacejock is, as you might expect, a comic sf series in a mildly "Red Dwarf" vein, peopled by space truckers, robots, and human baddies: "The universe of this series features no super-villains in breath-masks, no Dark Lords trying to take over the universe or Imperial Storm Troopers, only multimillionaires trying to become even wealthier and the thugs they employ to help them in their plans to rip off everyone. People are still people and just as likely to be fooled. All Hal wants, in this book, is a cup of coffee and a sweet snack, but it's not to be."

In "The Guardian", Peter Conrad reviews Richard Flanagan's latest, The Unknown Terrorist, and finds that, while it doesn't change the landscape of the novel like the author's Gould's Book of Fish, it "is an exercise in genre fiction - a thriller that, I am glad to say, happens to be genuinely thrilling."

Tom Keneally's The Widow and Her Hero is rated below his best by Ed Lake in "The Telegraph": "Keneally can be a bit of a hack, and his work here bears marks of haste...Even so, the novel comes off. It evokes something of the magnificence of heroism, and more of its awfulness. For that, it deserves a salute."

Germaine Greer on Frankenstein

Germaine Greer, in "The Guardian", gets stuck into an upcoming book, The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein, which is published in the US next month. "The latest sensation to galvanise the torpid lit-hist-crit establishment is the 'discovery' by market research analyst John Lauritsen that Mary Shelley did not write Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus (to give the novel its full title)." As Greer puts it, "The logic goes something like this: Frankenstein is a masterpiece; masterpieces are not written by self-educated girls and therefore Frankenstein cannot have been written by Mary Shelley. If Frankenstein is not a masterpiece, the thesis collapses." And then goes on to show that: "The driving impulse of this incoherent tale is a nameless female dread, the dread of gestating a monster. Monsters are not simply grossly deformed foetuses. Every mass murderer, every serial killer, the most sadistic paedophile has a mother, who cannot disown him."

Greer's conclusion is that Frankenstein is not a masterpiece, that it could only have been written by a young, inexperienced novelist, and that the author had to be Mary Shelley. Simple really.

Australian Bookcovers #59 - An Open Swimmer by Tim Winton


An Open Swimmer by Tim Winton, 1982
Cover illustration by David Nelson
(Penguin 1996 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Australian/Vogel Award in 1981.]


It's Easter and I have to go wine and dine the relatives for a few days. Play safe and I'll
see you next week.

2007 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2007 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award has been announced. J.M. Coetzee's novel Slow Man is the only Australian novel on the list.

[Thanks to the Literary Saloon at the complete review for the note.]

On Other Blogs #23

Ben Peek has had a new story published in "Aurealis #37" titled "John Wayne (As Written by a Non-American)". On his blog he responds to an implied request from a reviewer of the piece, providing his motivation and his plans for a series of stories in a similar vein.

Marshall Zeringue subjects Penni Russon and her novel, Breathe, to the page 69 test on his weblog "Campaign for rhe American Reader". It's quite decent really.

Peter Rozovsky is a big fan of Peter Temple's novel, The Broken Shore, and has been discussing it on his weblog, "Detectives Beyond Borders."

Oz Mystery Readers Group

The Oz Mystery Readers group on Yahoo seems to be fairly active, with some 400 or so messages being posted to the board each month. The group aims to "share opinions and information about crime/mystery fiction available in Australia in paperback." They do welcome members from all over the globe.

They are currently discussing Crook as Rookwood by Chris Nyst, which shared the Ned Kelly Award in 2006 with Peter Temple's The Broken Shore.

Patrick White Papers Explained

The latest issue of "Australian Book Review" contains an essay about Patrick White's papers in the National Library of Australia by Marie-Louise Ayres. Close readers out there will probably recognise this as being by the same author mentioned here a month ago regarding another piece in the "National Library of Australia News". A quick gance across both leads me to think these are one and the same. Can't find a note mentioning this in the ABR, however.

Tim Winton's Lockie Leonard

Worldscreen.com is reporting that Jetix U.K. has acquired broadcast rights to the "Australian show 'Lockie Leonard', produced by Essential Viewing. It will premiere on Jetix U.K. on April 14 and follows the adventures of quick-witted surf-rat Lockie as he battles life as a 12-and-three-quarters-year-old. Based on the award-winning novels by Booker Prize nominated author Tim Winton, 'Lockie Leonard' offers viewers a roller-coaster ride of friends, family and a truly mixed up yet very normal life."

From Wikipedia: "Jetix is a children's television programming brand owned by The Walt Disney Company broadcast in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was previously known as Fox Kids." There is no word at this time as to when the series will be screened in Australia.

2007 Ditmar Award Nominations

The nominations for the 2007 Ditmar Awards (best Australian sf and fantasy) have been released. Voting is restricted to members of the 2007 National Science Fiction Convention, Convergence 2, which will be held in Melbourne over the weekend of June 8-11th.

Reviews of Australian Books #49

Christopher Sorrentino reviews Richard Flanagan's latest novel, The Unknown Terrorist, and is quite taken with it. "You could argue that by populating his novel with puppets, Flanagan demonstrates our susceptibility to the fear that authority encourages, our blindness to the opportunism lurking in that encouragement...[but] Flanagan's strident presentation of a society passively following the marching orders issued by the government and its media accessories can be stunning".

Also in "Bookforum", Richard Locke takes a long look at Cultural Amnesia by Clive James, and finds that it only skims across the surface: "In the end, James's refusal to pay more precise attention to the lives and works of his 107 iconic figures -- most of whom, be they world-historical geniuses or scholars or tyrants or the nearly unknown, do indeed abundantly provoke our interest -- amounts to a dereliction of intellectual duty. For all its admirable, generous curiosity, its comedy, its defense of uncompromised and unfettered cultural variety, and its essentially celebratory energy, Cultural Amnesia conveys the sense not of delight but of frenzy, not Swift's saeva indignatio but slick wit, not learning but polymathy." It strikes me that Locke has missed the point completely. Another example of a critic reviewing what he wanted to receive, rather than what he actually got.

James Bradley reviews Tom Keneally's latest, The Widow and Her Hero, for the "Times Literary Supplement": "An unflinching clarity and moral purpose has long given shape and purpose to Keneally's fiction; it is what lifts it above the narrow territory of the historical novel. Without it, the considerable number of his books which follow history closely would be little more than the faction Schindler's Ark has sometimes been accused of being."

In "The Telegraph", David Robson also has a look at Keneally's novel, and, while he doesn't think it's up to the author's best, he stil thinks it's pretty good: "In terms of its overall effectiveness, The Widow and Her Hero is probably a notch or two below Keneally's very best work. The narrative is neatly constructed, but the scenes in the Far East lack a certain immediacy: you should be shocked by the beheadings, so redolent of modern Iraq, but they do not reverberate through the story as much as perhaps they should. But any new work by this master of moral complexity is a matter for rejoicing. He looks into the heart of the human condition with a piercing intelligence that few can match."

Peter Temple's novel, The Broken Shore, has been released in the US and is tarting to pick up some good reviews there. It's certainly interesting to see a different take on what most of us would consider to be an "Australian" novel. And yet Keir Graff can see similarities to the Australia, as depicted by Temple, and the American West: "Substitute Indians for Aborigines, and land-use issues for land-use issues (Australia has lots of coastline, but waterfront property is waterfront property), and you have a familiarly troubling tale of race and class conflict -- with an even darker crime at the heart of it all. Temple's novel
racked up the awards in Australia, and it's easy to see why: this deeply intelligent thriller starts slowly, builds inexorably, and ends unforgettably."

Australian Bookcovers #58 - Birds of Passage by Brian Castro


Birds of Passage by Brian Castro, 1983
Cover design: Judy Hungerford, Chinese calligraphy: Lau Wai Sik
(Allen and Unwin 1984 edition)
[This novel was a joint winner of the Australian/Vogel Award in 1982.]

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #11

The Age

Clive James's book, Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time, is the book of the moment with a major profile of the author last week, and the book being reviewed this week by Richard King, which he says "is not only huge (it would be unputdownable if, at 900 pages, it weren't unpickupable), it is also a remarkable intellectual achievement. It's the book James will be remembered for, if you can be remembered for a book about amnesia." Rather Jamesian in tone. He concludes: "The tears of a clown are a poignant sight and there are more tears than laughs in Cultural Amnesia, haunted as it is by a powerful sense of the depths to which humans can sink. And yet it is also a demonstration of the heights to which the mind can rise when the best that has been thought and said has taken root and begun to flower."

Barry Jones is back reviewing Colonial Ambition: Foundations of Australian Democracy by Peter Cochrane. The book has some limitations: "Colonial Ambition is a dramatic, and largely successful, attempt to tell the story of how democracy developed in NSW, and introduce us to the major players involved - John Dunmore Lang, Charles Cowper, Robert Lowe, Henry Parkes as the proponents, William Charles Wentworth on the other side, and colonial governors George Gipps, Charles Fitzroy and William Denison stuck in the middle. Publication was supported by the Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government in New South Wales Committee. The other colonies receive sparse cover." But generally, "The book is hugely enjoyable, with excellent illustrations, impressive documentation and a near perfect index."

Love Like Water, by Meme McDonald, has been getting some good notices of late so it is a pity that such a small review has been included of what appears to be a very important book.

Just as a last thought on "The Age" this week, consider the extract from Ian McEwan's latest novel On Chesil Beach. I don't have a problem with such extracts, especially if it accompanies a review of the book. But why does the paper only seem to print extracts from non-Australian authors who, basically, don't need the publicity? I would have liked to have seen an extract from Keneally's novel a few weeks back, or Steven Carroll's, or Alexis Wright's late last year. I guess I'll keep waiting.

The Australian

Graeme Blundell, the paper's resident crime reviewer, has a look at Shattered, the new novel by Gabrielle Lord, the latest in her Gemma Lincoln series. "Like Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky, Lord attempts to integrate gender awareness into the resistant form of the hard-boiled novel, exploring feminine consciousness inside a policing system that exists to support male hegemony. And, like Paretsky, she operates at a nice level of rage." Blundell then goes on to conclude that Ross Macdonald "would have loved Lord's work." High praise indeed.

The Sydney Morning Herald

David Messer reviews Wayne McLennan's Tent Boxing, and is pretty impressed by the whole thing: "Wayne McLennan is that rare thing, a person who has lived life to the full and can write. One of the great contradictions about writers is that they must devote so much time to the creation of their works that they inevitably live an existence alienated from the vast majority of humanity." The book was a "New York Times" notable book of 2005 and "Apart from describing a boxing sub-culture, Tent Boxing provides a glimpse into another hidden part of Australia - the lives of Aboriginal people. McLennan doesn't pretend to represent more than brief moments in the lives of certain individuals but even in doing only that, by having lived with them, he gives the reader information seldom found elsewhere. Once again, McLennan gets the balance just right, revealing the sense of community, the humour and the spirituality of his Aboriginal companions, but not shying away from the sadness, depression and violence, nor the alcohol and the drugs...Tent Boxing is subtitled An Australian Story, hinting at another subtext. McLennan is writing about the very recent past but the nomadic boxers and showmen come across as remnants of Australia half a century ago. Having returned to discover if there is still such a thing as an Australian identity, he finds one, but only at the point where it is almost gone."

Wayne McLennan Interview

I can still remember the travelling boxing troupes in South Australia in the late 1960s and thought they had probably died out long ago. But Wayne McLennan discovered in the 1990s that they were still traveling through Queensland and decided to join one. Jane
Cornwell interviews him on the eve of the publication of his account of that time, Tent Boxing, which recreates a sporting/cultural phenomenon that most of us only heard about in a Midnight Oil song.

2007 National Biography Award

East of Time, by Jacob Rosenberg, has been announced as the winner of the 2007 ational Biography Award.

New Australian Literary Award

"The Sydney Morning Herald" is reporting that the Australian Society of Authors announced its new Australian literary award over the weekend. The award, to be worth at least $35,000, will be presented each year to "the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society. The novel may be in any genre and it is not necessary for it to be set in Australia." The first year of the award will be 2008, though no details of the required publication dates have been released.

Is this just an Australian attempt to emulate the Orange Prize, but giving it a slight twist by emulating the Miles Franklin Award and restricting the subject matter? And what do they mean by "positive"? On first blush, I'm a bit underwhelmed by this.

Currently Reading

A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
The second volume of Martin's monumental Song of Fire and Ice Sequence. Not as good as the first volume and acts more as a stage-setting set of exercises.


The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
The 2011 Man Booker Prize winner. Not Barnes's best book but highly readable and echoes some of his very early work.


Recently Read

Hook's Mountain

Hook's Mountain by James McQueen
McQueen's sadly neglected novel from the early eighties. A WW II returned serviceman dives headfirst into environmental confrontation. This may be Australia's first "eco-terrorism" novel.


The Troubled Man

The Troubled Man by Henning Menkell
Menkell's last "Kurt Wallander" novel. As the detective investigates the disappearance of his daughter's future parents-in-law he encounters dark clouds everywhere, including his own life, past and future.



Shatter by Michael Robotham
This 2008 Ned Kelly Award winner is an excellent thriller featuring a revenge-seeking ex-army killer, and a physically and mentally scarred psychologist who races to avoid being the next victim.


Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman's coming-of-age story about a crippled boy and his attempt to save Asgard from the Frost Giants.


Goldilocks Enigma

The Goldilocks Enigma by Paul Davies
Davies's investigation into why the universe is like it is - "weak", "strong" and "final" anthropic theories all get a going over.


The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.jpg

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann
A collection of Grann's journalism featuring tales of murder, madness and obsession. Varied but generally fairly interesting, and sometimes just plain bizarre.



Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell's investigation of why some people are more successful than others. Interesting but not up to his previous work.



The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
Rankin's second novel featuring his new detective Malcolm Fox of The Complaints. There are echoes of Rebus here, but it still has some way to go to reach those heights.


Bomb, Book and Compass

 Bomb, Book and Compass by Simon Winchester
The amazing tale of Joseph Needham and his exploration of the history of China. The story is very interesting even though the writing is somewhat flat.



 The Lost City of Z by David Grann
The story of Percy Fawcett's obsessive search for a lost city in the Amazon. It cost him his life in 1925 but he might just have been right.



 The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Grossman's take on the "magician-in-training" fantasy sub-sub-genre. Starts off being rather derivative but slowly morphs into something very interesting.



 The Years That the Locust Hath Eaten by Marjorie Quinn
The long-delayed publication of the memoirs of Sydney poet Marjorie Quinn. An intimate portrait of the Sydney literary scene between the wars and one woman's struggle for a literary life.


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