July 2007 Archives

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #25

In case you were wondering what happened last week, I skipped this category: couldn't find anything of interest to write about.

The Age

A couple of weeks back the newspapers in Australia were all agog about excerpts from a new biography of our current Prime Minister. It was mostly stuff that, if you sat back and thought about it, you wouldn't have been all that surprised to come across. The interesting thing was that it had all come together in one volume only a few months before a rather important Federal election. Now that book, John Winston Howard by Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen, has hit the bookshelevs and has been reviewed by Michelle Grattan, "The Age" political editor. This is an odd occurrence: "The book is overdue. Former Labor leader Mark Latham attracted several biographers (one wonders if they now lament the effort). Two books have recently appeared on Kevin Rudd [current Leader of the Opposition]. Yet Howard, already the second-longest-serving Australian PM, has only the rather turgid account produced by David Barnett, with Pru Goward, about a decade ago." Maybe it might have been best for Howard if the biographies had waited till he had left the political stage, but we can't manage everyting in our lives. "This early cut of history has damaged him, to an extent yet to become clear. While the inter-newspaper rivalry over the book prompted claims it just tells us what was already known, the biography does bring new information and extra insights into the Howard years, especially through the frank first-person accounts. [Treasurer, Peter] Costello might have given Howard character references before, but the directness and the timing of publication make his latest salvo especially pertinent."

It used to be said that Adelaide was the centre of churches and strange murders. Now that later epithet might well be overtaken by events in the Northern Territory. Maybe not so much "strange" as just plain "weird". The death of Peter Falconio in 2001, and the attempted abduction of Joanne Lees by Bradley John Murdoch transfixed a large number of newspaper and book readers with some five books now written about the case. The latest, The Killer Within: Inside the World of Bradley John Murdoch by Paul Toohey, which Chris Johnston comes to grips with. Be aware though, the title outlines the book's direction: the murder is there but it's just a part of the whole: "Interestingly, Toohey focuses only fleetingly on the crimes against Falconio and Lees, although the lesser-known revelations of the long series of court trials get a fair run. Lees' story -- as the naive, pretty tourist subjected to unimaginable torment in one of the world's most inhospitable landscapes -- is pure Australian gothic, like the slasher film Wolf Creek or the grimmest of Albert Tucker's desert paintings come cruelly to life. But it is also well-worn."

The Australian

It would appear that, depending on which side of the History Wars you place yourself, you're either going to enjoy or hate Australian Pastoral: The Making of a White Landscape by Jeanette Horn. Frank Campbell does a pretty good job of looking at the book dispassionately and finds both good and bad in the work. "Hoorn's central thesis is that Australian landscape painting served the dominant pastoral industry. There was a lucrative British market for wool, given economies of scale through huge land acquisitions. From the 1820s to the 1950s, wool was the flagship of the Australian economy...Pastoralism was a wonderful invention, but the road to hell is paved with good inventions. As vast areas of land were taken up, the Aborigines were wiped off or wiped out." Both the white settlers and the Aboriginals changed the environment in differing ways and yet here "Pastoralists as well as Aborigines get off scot-free...This is a book whose intellectual means do not match its ambitions. Still, it's an intriguing account of the coded messages lurking in art."

Alice Spigelman is quite impressed with Paprika Paradise by James Jeffrey, which "explores what it is like growing up with two cultures: the real one in Australia and the romanticised one in Hungary." She calls the book "poignant and often very funny."

Antoni Jach Profile

Jane Sullivan profiles author Antoni Jach in "The Age" over the weekend. Jach is the author of Napoleon's Double which has been perplexing a few book reviewers of late.

Describing Napoleon's Double isn't easy, because it's not a simple historical adventure; it doesn't rely on the attractions of narrative or character; nobody accomplishes great deeds; and the reader is not even sure whether something really happened.

But what it does have is ideas. Jach's naive young narrator never tires of exploring his exciting new worlds through the exciting ideas of French thinkers such as Diderot, Rousseau and Voltaire.

What he discovers is often uncannily similar to modern philosophical obsessions and enables Jach to take a quizzical and sometimes satirical view of everything from how to live a good life to the foundations of a relaxed and comfortable Australia.

Glenda Adams Obituaries And Remembrances

Obituaries and remembrances of Glenda Adams have been appearing over the past few weeks, so it's probably time to sample them.

In "The Sydney Morning Herald", John Dale provides a summarised biography in his obituary, which is probably as good an example of the form as you can hope for in the confines of a newspaper's columns: "Adams was a writer's writer who understood the creative process. Never one to seek the limelight, she made a significant contribution to Australian literature and the discipline of creative writing. She built an international following of admirers of her fiction and her approach to teaching."

Richard, on the weblog "Syntax of things", takes a different direction and writes about the Glenda Adams he knew in the 1970s.

As does the writer on "The View from Elsewhere" weblog, proving yet again that there is a place for the intimate blogging approach: "I met Glenda a couple of years ago when she came to Alice Springs to conduct a series of creative writing workshops. I found her a greatly encouraging, yet incisive teacher: she seemed to possess the perfect blend of astuteness and diplomacy for teaching creative writing. A gentle, almost fey personality, she exuded a grandmotherly charm that seemed to mask a fascination with the darker, more gothic aspects of life. She also had a knack for making pithy comments about the writing process, many of which often come back to me as I try to teach and write. I remember her joking in one of our workshops, 'I keep on telling you these all bon mots, though none of them are particularly bon.'"

Australian Bookcovers #75 - A Woman of the Future by David Ireland


A Woman of the Future by David Ireland, 1979
Cover Photograph by Derek Hughes
(Penguin 1980 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 1979.]

Attending Writers' Festivals

Kathleen Noonan seems positively enthused about attending the Byron Bay Writers' Festival over this past weekend. So much so she wrote about her anticipation, her friends' bemusement, authors' angst, and attendees' disappointments in "The Courier-Mail".

And what drives writers to abandon their keyboards and face the reading public?

Writers are generally perceived as introverted, monk-like little creatures who like to observe and contemplate, locked away in their attics, rather than mixing with the crowds. The very nature of their job demands solitude and silence and their backside on a seat for at least several hours a day. Most are far more comfortable communicating through their writing.

Yet book tours and writers' festivals demand the very opposite. Few authors escape the festival circuit -- publisher and publicist drag even the big names, some screaming, to the podium to discuss not just their book. Often they are expected to be experts on world affairs, political issues, social trends, the voice of a generation.

Australian Author Wins Major Romance Award

"The Sydney Morning Herald" is reporting that Australian author Bronwyn Clarke has won the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Golden Heart contest for unpublished manuscripts, for her novel Falling into Darkness . Needless to say she is working on a sequel - good move - and has her manuscript under consideration.

Clarke's win follows that of Marion Lennox, who won the Best Traditional Romance
category of the 2006 Romance Writers of America Rita awards, for her novel Princess of Convenience.

2007 Australian Book Industry Award Winners (Updated)

The winners of the 2007 Australian Book Industry Awards were announced last week, and the full list is now available (PDF File):

Australian Chain Bookseller of the Year
Dymocks Garden City (Booragoon)

Australian Independent Bookseller of the Year
Riverbend Bookshop

Australian Distributor of the Year
Alliance Distribution Services

Australian Distributor of the Year
Jonestown by Chris Masters, published by Allen & Unwin

Australian Small Publisher of the Year
Black Inc

Australian Export Success of the Year
Scholastic Australia for Monster Blood Tattoo Trilogy by D.M. Cornish

Australian Illustrated Book of the Year
My French Life by Vicki Archer, published by Penguin Group Australia

Australian Biography of the Year
Jonestown by Chris Masters, published by Allen & Unwin

Australian General Non-Fiction Book of the Year
The Great War by Les Carlyon, published by Pan Macmillan Australia

Australian Book of the Year for Younger Children (age range 0 to 8 years)
Josephine Wants to Dance by Jackie French, published by HarperCollins Publishers

Australian Book of the Year for Older Children (age range 8 to 14 years)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan, published by Hachette Livre Australia

Australian Literary Fiction Book of the Year
Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, published by Giramondo Publishing

Australian General Fiction Book of the Year
The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton, published by Allen & Unwin

Australian Newcomer of the Year (debut writer)
Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung, published by Black Inc.

Australian Book of the Year
The Great War by Les Carlyon, published by Pan Macmillan Australia

The Lloyd O'Neil Award for outstanding service to the Australian book industry
Peter Field

Pixie O'Harris Award for distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of Australian children's books
Agnes Nieuwenhuizen

Publisher of the Year Award
Allen & Unwin

[Update reason: the full list is now available on the website.]
Bookseller of the Year, Australian Marketing Campaign of the Year, and Australian Distributor of the Year.

Poem: Australian Impulsive Eloquence! by W.T. Goodge

The new Premier, the Right Honorable George Houston Reid, P.C., is 59 years of age, and is still full of the vigor and fire for which he is noted, and which is essential to a fighting politician. Scotch by birth, but Australian by education and adoption, Mr. Reid combines the caution and shrewdness of the Northerner with the impulsive eloquence and caustic wit of the native Australian. - Sydney Morning Herald

I've seen but little evidence
   Of "caustic native wit,"
But of "impulsive eloquence"
   I understand a bit!
There's eloquence and impulse too,
   I have been charmed by both,
From Dubbo out to Dandaloo --
   My Red Australian Oath!

"Impulsive eloquence!" indeed!
   The thought is hard to bear.
I don't believe that G.H. Reid
   Was ever taught to swear!
But find a bullocky whose team
   Is bogged against a fence,
And then you'll hear a lovely stream
   Of "Native Eloquence!"

First published in The Bulletin, 25 August 1904

On Other Blogs #31

"How's this for a Guinness world record: we and another publisher have just published a book with the same title, on the same day, about the same person, with the same retail price. We've published Kevin Rudd by a journalist called Nicholas Stuart. Penguin have also published Kevin Rudd, in their case by a journalist called Robert Macklin. Our sub-title, though, is 'an unauthorised political biography'; theirs is 'the biography'. Is this coincidence, conspiracy, or cock-up? And what is the significance, if any, of the differing sub-titles? "To get an answer to these questions, sit back and relax while I tell the tale of the bringing of our book to market." Which is just what Henry Rosenbloom proceeds to do on his weblog "Henry's Blog". By way of introduction, Rosenbloom is the founder and publisher of Scribe Publications, an Australian small press. [I reviewed the publisher's Will Dyson: Australia's Radical Genius by Ross McMullin last year.] There aren't many blogs written by publishers in Australia so this one gives us a valuable insight into the inner workings of the industry.

Margo Lanagan is really getting stuck into the revisions and rewrites of her upcoming novel, Tender Morsels, which is still a year away from publication. "I have reached the point in the revisions where, if I'm going out and I know everyone else is going to be out of the house, I lock the manuscript away with the laptop. This is because back in March, our house was broken into, and I've done enough work on the revisions (and not word-processed it yet - I'll do that when I've completely scribbled over the entire manuscript next week) for it to be, not traumatic (and it probably wouldn't hurt the story at all -- hmm, must think about what that implies about the state it's in), but a big bloody nuisance to go back in to the last WP'd version and re-do them." I hope she's keeping off-site back-ups.

"Lit Lists" is one of Marshal Zeringue's many weblogs under the general umbrella of the "Campaign for the American Reader". On this blog he links to book lists supplied by authors to various publications and websites. The most recent entry is from Kate Blackwell who was asked by Powells.com to recommend "five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise." Among those books is The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead, which she admires for its "sheer originality of language and unique vision".

The "Australian Crime Fiction" crew have purchased their tickets for the upcoming Melbourne Writers' Festival and have now published their itinerary. Pretty impressive energy levels. Which reminds me that I have to get tickets for the Ned Kelly Awards night.

Judith Ridge, on her "The :: New :: Misrule" weblog asks: "My question for the good readers of Misrule is this -- how do you define 'voice' in narrative fiction? For writers -- how do you define it, and how do you find it? How do you make a voice distinct from character to character -- especially when it comes to first person?" A lively and informative discussion ensued, which necessitated a follow-up posting.

Clive James Poem

You may have wondered in some idle moment why I haven't reprinted any of Clive James's poetry on this weblog. Simple answer: copyright. All of the poems reprinted here are old, necessitated by the fact that the works have to be in the public domain, which only happens in Australia 50 years after the author's death. Last time I looked, James was still kicking pretty hard so it'll be a while before Matilda can safely get round to highlighting his work. Not so "The New York Times" though. They have the clout to contact the poet directly and request reprint rights to his poem "The Book of My Enemy". The work has appeared as a lead-in to the upcoming publication of Opal Sunset: Selected Poems 1958-2007 by Clive James.

Trudi Canavan Interview

Trudi Canavan, author of "The Black Magician" and "Age of the Five" trilogies of fantasy novels, is interviewed on the OrbitBooks website.

I'm not sure how old this interview is, but it states that Canavan's latest novel, Voice of the Gods, was only published a week previously, and that novel's publication date in the UK was July 5th 2007. Let's say it was fairly recent, within the past month.

Right now I know what I'll be working on for the next four years. It's strange, but reassuring. The biggest change in my writing has been the introduction of deadlines. Because the Black Magician Trilogy was my first "book" I had no contract, and writing wasn't my only income earner, so I could take as long as I wanted to rewrite and improve it. Having a deadline gives you less time to fiddle and tweak. Yet I've also noticed that I write slower now but my first drafts need less rewriting and polishing. Experience has taught me better plotting and how to avoid common structural mistakes. Not that I don't still make mistakes or don't still polish obsessively.

2007 Ned Kelly Award Shortlists

Damien, on his "Crime Down under" weblog, has reported that the shortlists for the 2007 Ned Kelly Awards have been released.

Best Crime Novel

Chain of Evidence - Gary Disher (Text)
The Night Ferry - Michael Robotham (Little Brown)
The Unknown Terrorist - Richard Flanagan (Macmillan)
The Cleaner - Paul Cleave (Random House)
Undertow - Peter Corris (Allen & Unwin)
Spider Trap - Barry Maitland (Allen & Unwin)

Best First Crime Novel

The Betrayal of Bindi Mackenzie - Jaclyn Moriaty (Macmillan)
Diamond Dove - Adrian Hyland (Text)
Better Dead Than Never - Laurent Boulanger (C& C International Media Group)
Behind the Night Bazaar - Angela Savage (Text)

Best True Crime

Justice For The Dead - Malcolm Dodd and Beverly Knight (Hachette Livre)
Overboard: The Stories Cruise Ships Don't Want Told - Gywn Topham (Random House)
Intractable - Bernie Matthews (Macmillan)
Written On The Skin - Liz Porter (Macmillan)
Silent Death - Karen Kissane (Hachette Livre)
Australian Outlaw - Derek Pedley (Sly Ink)
Killing For Pleasure: The Definitive Story of the Snowtown Murders - Debi Marshall (Random House)
The Dodger - Duncan McNab (Macmillan)
Things A Killer Would Know - Paula Doneman (Allen & Unwin)

The awards will be presented during the upcoming Melbourne Writers' Festival on August 29th at 6:00pm.

2007 Melbourne Writers' Festival Program

The full program for the 2007 Melbourne Writers' Festival is now available. The festival will run from August 24th to September 2nd this year. Clive James will deliver the keynote address, "Our Inextinguishable Fortune", at the Melbourne Town Hall on Friday 24th August.

Extract: The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan

"The New York Times" has made the first chapter of Richard Flanagan's novel, The Unknown Terrorist, available for reading on the web.

Australian Bookcovers #74 - The Impersonators by Jessica Anderson


The Impersonators by Jessica Anderson, 1980
(Penguin 1982 edition)
Cover illustration by Mike Hollands
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 1980.]

Harry Potter Update

HP 7 was duly purchased on Saturday morning and delivered into the waiting hands of C, 14 and desperate to get started on the book. As I reported last week, she had a birthday party to attend on Saturday afternoon, but, other than that, each waking hour was spent hunched over Rowling's pages. The other parents at eight-year-old W's basketball match on Saturday morning hadn't picked up a copy by eleven, and a few had even forgotten it was being released that day. Strange, hermit-like creatures they be.

C woke with a cold on Sunday: I'm not sure if it was the late night on Saturday that brought it on or the trauma of being back at school for a week. She was only about a third through the book at this stage.

Yum Cha lunch with my sister, and her husband, who told me she'd had to wait in line for an hour to pick up a copy at Border's in Chadstone and about another hour to pay for it. C continues to read at the table. One waitress tells us she finished it at 4 a.m., while Herself asks what happens at the end, and the table howls her down. W is unimpressed with the whole thing and appears to be coming down with the same lurgy as C.

Sunday night and Herself is falling alseep on the couch in front of the ABC, I'm in another room trying to do some paperwork and C, next door, is squealing out "Oh no", and "Oh my God" at about 15 minute intervals. Sounds impressive anyway.

Monday morning and C is too sick for school - W isn't much better and is also at home - so she might just finish it after all.

In the end I got to pick it up just once after delivering it home. It's big. Herself is home looking after the children and may be a few hundred pages into it by the time I get home tonight.

The blogosphere seems to be consumed with the problem of what kids will read next. Given that this is the biggest run of hits in children's literature that I can remember, I tend to think something will crop up. Maybe not as big as this, but something. Children's literature will never be the same again. And a good thing too.

Germaine Greer Not a Happy Vegemite

In a "Guardian" weblog entry Germaine Greer takes a wild swing at Richard Neville, his memoir Hippie Hippie Shake, and the upcoming film adaptation of it.

It's getting harder and harder to be a real person. You used to have to die before assorted hacks started munching your remains and modelling a new version of you out of their own excreta. There was a good reason for this: the person is always more than the text, or even the text with pictures, or even a moving picture in cinemascope with quadrophonic stereo sound. Reducing the person to excremental artefact before she is dead is worse than cannibalism.

Okay, I can understand that: who would want to see a fictionalised version of yourself presented to the general public as wholesale truth? Not a lot of us I would suspect.

If Greer had stayed on this line the rest of the essay might have been understandable - it's comparable to public figures not wanting biographies written of them while they're still alive. And then she just takes it a bit too far: "I don't, won't read any book in which I am a character because I know, from reading my husband's book, that trying to comprehend someone else's version of your life can drive you mad. When you accept somebody else's truth in lieu of your own, you have been successfully brainwashed. It makes no difference whether the version you have accepted is flattering or otherwise; either way your integrity is undermined. You're a little bit phonier."

Who says you have to "accept somebody else's truth in lieu of your own"? You can accept someone's truth as a companion to your own, but in "lieu of"? Ask anyone who's married, or in a long-term relationship. You're continually confronted by a different intrepretation of your life and actions on a daily basis. Doesn't mean that you have to discard your own and replace it with your partner's, you just have to accept that other people see your life differently. Be a dull old place if they saw it in exactly the same way I'd reckon. Quieter, but dull.

Alexandra Adornetto Interview

It's not often I link to teen web sites from Matilda. Then again, it's not often that we see a 15-year-old author with a book in the shops. Alexandro Adornetto, author of The Shadow Thief, is interviewed by Sarah Karakaidos on the "Bellaboo" website.

At times I'll be so focused on writing that my homework starts to pile up. Because of this, I have had to learn to manage my time carefully. I try to write everyday -- even if it's for a very short period of time. For focused writing you need blocks of free time and this usually only happens on weekends and holidays. Overall, I try to keep my school-life quite separate to my literary one.

Poem: McNulty by W.T. Goodge

What McNulty? Strike me purple! He was champion of the West,
Where the gentle art of cursing has achieved its very best.
You can talk about Maginnis and O'Hara and the rest --
   But they couldn't hold a candle to McNulty!

Now THE BULLETIN may have a hide as tough as e'er a mule's,
But it couldn't print his language 'cause it wouldn't have the tools;
It would use up all the brackets, "startlers", stars and metal-rules
   For to punctuate the language of McNulty!

When McNulty came up country he went out to Seven-wire
Where he got a job at hauling logs from hungry McIntyre
(Him as wouldn't work on Sunday if his homestead was a-fire!).
   He could drive a team of bullocks, could McNulty.

But McIntyre's old bullocks they were hungry as was he;
Like them lean and lanky cattle in the Bible yarn, may be.
Anyway, they wouldn't pull a log and 'twas a sight to see
   How they shivered at the language of McNulty?

"Why the (blank dashed parenthesis) and (starred ellipsis) hell
Don't you pull? You sons of (asterisks)!" and here his accents fell.
"Call yerselves a team of bullocks? Workin' bullocks, do yer? Well,
   You're a mob of (blanky) cows!" exclaimed McNulty.

At this gross and brutal insult every bullock gave a heave,
And they hauled that blessed log out just as Mac. had turned to leave.
"I'm a champion ox-persuader, with some notions up my sleeve,
   And I knows the power o' language!" said McNulty.

But M'Nulty went to Sydney, where he drove a parcels van,
And the suburbs got to know just like Coonabarabran.
Took a load of apples over to a North Shore grocer man:
   'Twas the only time that language failed M'Nulty!

You must know "the Shore,' how steep it is; you've climbed the hills, no doubt?
Well, M'Nulty led his horse up; there were plenty folks about;
And the blessed tail-board came unfixed, and let them apples out --
   A catastrophe unnoticed by M'Nulty!

But a crowd was there a-waiting on the summit of the hill
In the hope of hearing language that would make 'em fairly thrill.
When McNulty found what happened for a second he stood still:
   "Please excuse me, gents and ladies," said McNulty,

"I'm the famed McNulty, of the Castlereagh, no less,
And I am a champion swearer -- but I candidly confess
That I can find NO language was would properly express
   What my feelin's is this minute!" said McNulty.

First published in The Bulletin, 9 September 1899

Reviews of Australian Books #60

Not so much a review of the book as a commentary on its contents - yes, I do see a difference there - Hugh Brody's examination of Sven Lindqvist's Terra Nullius in "The Guardian" comes to no real conclusions about the book. As a guide, Lindqvist is a Swedish writer who travelled to Australia to examine the plight of the Australian indigenous peoples, and to try to determine how they got there. "His starting point is the hideous notion that Australia, at the time of first colonisation, was terra nullius, the land of no one. This colonist legal myth established that here were millions of acres available for European settlement. The actual owners and occupiers, the people lumped together under the term Aborigines, were not human enough, or present enough, to be someone." I suppose we have to remember here that Brody is writing for a non-Australian audience so terms such as terra nullius have to be explained, though the length of that explanation appears to squeeze out other commentary. Brody goes on to state: "Lindqvist's new book is also a reflection on guilt and responsibility: many Australians have welcomed the idea that the nation as a whole has to say sorry for what has been done to the Aborigines, while no government in power has allowed any such official apology." Lindqvist comes down on the side of an apology, as you might expect, and with which I have no qualms whatsoever. The problem with this review is that it gives the impression that the book would be quite short - given that only a couple of topics are tackled in the review - but it runs for 272 pages. I think I might quite like to read this book, though I can't really tell from this piece. I'll put it down to space constraints. Anything else and this reviewer will need to have a long think about what constitutes a review and what its readers would hope to take away from it.

Matthew Tait welcomes Sean Williams back to his roots in a review of the author's new novel, Saturn Returns on the "Horrorscope" weblog: "After the debacle of the Books of the Cataclysm, Sean has revisited the path where he started -- and, dare I say it, where he belongs." The reviewer found himself "electrified".

On Other Blogs #30

Chris Lawson, over on the "Talking Squid" weblog, asks a number of Australian authors about their favourite character
: street signs, friends' surnames, and variants of found names all get a mention. You'll need to follow through on the comments to this posting, as some of them are very amusing.

Andrew on the "Black Dog Blog", has noticed one of those things that, after you've read it, you think, "yeah, why didn't I see that?"

Judith Ridge points out the upcoming publication of That's Why I Wrote This Song by Susanne Gervay, which will be accompanied by a CD of music specifically written for the book by the author's daughter Tory. Ridge wonders if it's the "first YA book to be released with its own soundtrack".

Appeal Denied by Peter Corris is put to the page 99 test by Marshall Zeringue on his "Campaign for the American reader" weblog. [Personal disclosure: Marshall links to a photo I took of Peter Corris's plaque at Circular Quay in Sydney.]

Crime Fiction Characters

About a month ago, I wrote a small posting about a cliched phrase I'd come across in a review of a book I'd quite liked. I got to talking about character development in the novel which elicited a comment from Kerryn Goldsworthy that read, in part: "...he sounds less like the kind of character you'd find in realist literary fiction than like a version of the contemporary crime fiction hero model: idiosyncratic, damaged, quirky, maybe ageing, bit of a loner, crummy love life, clearly defined cultural tastes and so on."

Which was followed up by another commenter, meika, who added: "Kerryn I think you forgot the empty fridge at home."

What reminded me of this was a memory that came to me from Peter Temple's Jack Irish novel, Black Tide, which I finished a little while back. It's just one sentence, but I think it says it all.

"At home, sad, misty, loveless Saturday night, a chicken pie and two glasses of red took care of me."

2007 Byron Bay Writers' Festival

The 2007 Byron Bay Writers' Festival will be held over the weekend of 27th to 29th July. The full program for the event is now available and bookings are open.

Featured at the Festival will be David Marr (giving the opening address), Chris Masters, Alexis Wright, Brenda Niall, Richard Flanagan, Robert Dessaix, Gail Jones, Nicolas Rothwell, and a wide and varied cast of other writers.

The program looks pretty varied - there are lectures, panels, readings, literary lunches and book launches - so you shouldn't have any trouble finding something of interest there. I was pleased to note a panel on the topic "Everything in its place: how landscape, natural and built, informs writing", with Garry Disher and Alexis Wright talking on the subject. I remember Disher a couple of years back lamenting the fact that Festival organisers never seem to ask crime novelists to talk about setting and place. He'll be happy with this opportunity, I suspect.

Australian Literary Monuments #19 - Patrick White


Patrick White plaque, Circular Quay, Sydney.

Harry Potter and the Exploding Birthday Party

Like, it seems, half the rest of the Western world, I will be visiting my dealer on Saturday to purchase a copy of the latest and last Harry Potter novel. I'll get round to reading it soon but I'll probably be third in line in my household. First, of course, will be my 14-year old daughter, C, followed closely by Herself. Your obedient servant has, in years past, come to believe this is some sort of indication of his standing in life. The eight-year-old son will be playing basketball and getting stuck into his Lego Star Wars game on the PlayStation to worry too much about the whole thing. (Which reminds me that I should hunt out the first volume in the series and see if he wants to read it. He's about the right age. And he told me yesterday he was out of Zac Power books.)

Sitting on the couch last night, C was checking her email and announced that she had been invited to a Saturday afternoon birthday party.

"What time?" Herself asked - ever the practical one.

"One till four", C said.

I turned to look at her. "But that's no good," I said.

"Why? What are we doing?" It's winter, it's wet and it's cold. What could we possibly be doing?

"Saturday's Harry Potter Day," I said.

"Oh my god," C said. Fourteen-year-olds say this all the time. I just think of Charlton Heston at the end of "The Omega Man", and "The Planet of the Apes." "I'll have to cancel."

"No, I think you can probably finish it before bedtime." When the previous HP novel arrived she took it to bed and didn't leave until she'd finished. A bladder to die for.

"I'm going to reply and say I can't make it." She was already typing furiously.

"You can't do that," Herself said, "she's your best friend...You are going, aren't you?"


Somewhere in the past year she's started to pick up a sense of humour. I'm not sure who I should thank for that, but I would like to find them and shake them by the hand. Life is so much more bearable with a 14-year-old who knows how to play a joke on her friends.

2007 Australian Book Industry Awards

The shortlists for the 2007 Australian Book Industry Awards have been announced [PDF file].

Australian Chain Bookseller of the Year

NSW/ACT  Dymocks Sydney
Qld           Dymocks Indooroopilly
SA/NT       Dymocks Rundle Mall
Tas           Dymocks Hobart
Vic           Dymocks Camberwell
WA           Dymocks Garden City (Booragoon)

Australian Independent Bookseller of the Year
NSW/ACT  Gleebooks
Qld           Riverbend Bookshop
SA/NT       Imprints Booksellers
Tas           Fullers Hobart
Vic           Avenue Bookstore
WA           Boffins Bookshop

Australian Small Publisher of the Year

Black Dog Books
Black Inc
Giramondo Publishing Company
Jamie Durie Publishing
Scribe Publications

Australian Distributor of the Year

Alliance Distribution Services
Harper Entertainment Distribution Services
Macmillan Distribution Services
Random House Australia
United Book Distributors

Australian Marketing Campaign of the Year

Every Day by Bill Granger, published by Murdoch Books
Jonestown by Chris Masters, published by Allen & Unwin
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards, published by Penguin Group Australia
The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult, published by Allen & Unwin
Zac Power: Lunar Strike by H.I. Larry, published by Hardie Grant Egmont

Australian Export Success of the Year

Black Dog Books for Dragon Keeper Trilogy by Carole Wilkinson
Scholastic Australia for Monster Blood Tattoo Trilogy by D.M. Cornish
The Text Publishing Company for The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
The Text Publishing Company for The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

Australian Illustrated Book of the Year

Every Day by Bill Granger, published by Murdoch Books
Garden of a Lifetime by Anne Latreille, published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Keeping Culture: Aboriginal Tasmania edited by Amanda Reynolds, published by National Museum of Australia
Matt Moran by Matt Moran, published by Penguin Group Australia
My French Life by Vicki Archer, published by Penguin Group Australia

Australian Biography of the Year

A Thinking Reed by Barry Jones, published by Allen & Unwin
Florence Broadhurst by Helen O'Neill, published by Hardie Grant Australia
Jonestown by Chris Masters, published by Allen & Unwin
My Story by General Peter Cosgrove, published by HarperCollins Publishers
Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung, published by Black Inc.

Australian General Non-Fiction Book of the Year

Agamemnon's Kiss: Selected Essays by Inga Clendinnen, published by The Text Publishing Company
Inhaling the Mahatma by Christopher Kremmer, published by HarperCollins Publishers
Silencing Dissent edited by Clive Hamilton & Sarah Maddison, published by Allen & Unwin
The Great War by Les Carlyon, published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Tobruk by Peter FitzSimmons, published by HarperCollins Publishers

Australian Book of the Year for Younger Children (age range 0 to 8 years)

A Particular Cow by Mem Fox, illustrated by Terry Denton, published by Penguin Group Australia
Josephine Wants to Dance by Jackie French, published by HarperCollins Publishers
The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas by Heath McKenzie, published by Black Dog Books
The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffiths, published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Uno's Garden by Graeme Base, published by Penguin Group Australia

Australian Book of the Year for Older Children (age range 8 to 14 years)

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, published by Penguin Group Australia
Rose By Any Other Name by Maureen McCarthy, published by Allen & Unwin
Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah, published by Pan Macmillan Australia
The Arrival by Shaun Tan, published by Hachette Livre Australia
We Are the Weather Makers: Story of Global Warming by Tim Flannery, published by The Text Publishing Company

Australian Literary Fiction Book of the Year

Careless by Deborah Robertson, published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, published by Giramondo Publishing
Every Move You Make by David Malouf, published by Random House
Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey, published by Random House
Underground by Andrew McGahan, published by Allen & Unwin

Australian General Fiction Book of the Year

Cents & Sensibility by Maggie Alderson, published by Penguin Group Australia
Cricket Kings by William McInnes, published by Hachette Livre Australia
The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Hearn, published by Hachette Livre Australia
The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton, published by Allen & Unwin
The Valley by Di Morrissey, published by Pan Macmillan Australia

Australian Newcomer of the Year (debut writer)

Blowing My Own Trumpet by James Morrison, published by Murdoch Books
Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch, published by University of Queensland Press
The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton, published by Allen & Unwin
Undertow by Sydney Bauer, published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung, published by Black Inc.

Australian Book of the Year

A Thinking Reed by Barry Jones, published by Allen & Unwin
Jonestown by Chris Masters, published by Allen & Unwin
The Arrival by Shaun Tan, published by Hachette Livre Australia
The Great War by Les Carlyon, published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung, published by Black Inc.

The winners in these 15 categories, along with the Lloyd O'Neil Award, the Pixie O' Harris Award and the Australian Publisher of the Year Award, will be announced at the ABIA presentation dinner on Tuesday 24th July 2007.

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #24

The Age

In his review of Sonya Hartnett's new novel, The Ghost's Child, Christopher Bantick seems at great pains to get the point across that the author, and her books, should not be solely labeled with the Young Adult tag. This is a view with which I can completely concur. Yes, Hartnett writes novels with teenagers as the major protagonists; and yes, she deals with some issues that are normally the domain of YA novels. But the general view of YA novels is that they are, and should remain, the reading matter of teenagers only. If you hold that view then I'm very sorry for you. You're missing more than you can imagine.

"Sonya Hartnett is arguably one of Australia's most evocatively descriptive writers. Less contentious is her narrative diversity and breadth of thematic concerns. Defying categorisation or permitting readers to assume they know what to expect with each new book, Hartnett's wellspring rises from somewhere secret and solitary.

"She can move with seamless ease from exploring a child's crushing guilt derived from a single past mistake in Surrender to the graphic eroticism of Landscape with Animals, published under the pseudonym of Cameron S. Redfern. While Hartnett is often defined as a young adult author, such a description is limiting, perhaps unfair and inaccurate. Her interests span the ages."

Her new novel seems to exemplify exactly what Bantick is trying to get at: "In her new novel, The Ghost's Child, Hartnett slips easily into the role of fabulist. At least, it is a temptation to see her so. The novel is a fable-like tale but without a moral resonance. This is part of its beguiling, hybrid charm. On one, albeit palpably superficial level, The Ghost's Child is a lilting fairy tale." And who said you had to be young to appreciate fairy tales. Especially the lilting ones.

Since the death of Kerry Packer a few years back the decline and fall of his beloved Channel 9 television network has been a wonder to behold. I doubt they could have wrecked it any quicker, or deeper, if they tried. Gerald Stone probably thinks so as well, if his new book Who Killed Channel 9? is anything to go by. As to whether or not he answers the question of his title perplexes Matthew Ricketson in his review: "There is no doubt the book peels back the covers of what is a publicly uncommunicative company, and for this we should be grateful, but Stone has never met an issue he could not simplify to white hats and black hats, and his analysis of what plagues Nine is less convincing than his vivid narrative."

[Update: "The Age" has its reviews up on its website now.]

The Australian

"The Australian" appears to have overhauled its Books page on its website, making all its reviews very difficult to find in the process. Seems like a mistake to me.

Liam Davison follows the view that Sonya Hartnett is a writer, first and foremost, and a writer of some talent in his review of The Ghost's Child: "In my eyes, Hartnett established herself as a major writer with the chilling novel Of a Boy and confirmed that standing with the savagely beautiful Surrender. Others were singing her praises earlier, but I still harboured unease about where her work sat with its intended audience and the apparent bleakness of her vision. Of a Boy and Surrender were clearly not so much books for children as books about childhood, and they forced something of a reassessment of where she stood...The Ghost's Child is a fable about ageing mediated by a child and imbued with a magical, childlike sensibility that softens the full weight of its purpose and the event that drives it...There is a fragile and ethereal beauty about this book, as though Hartnett has turned a mirror to the light. It is a magically cerebral fable that seems in constant danger of dissolving before our eyes."

Not on the website but worth mentioning is Graeme Blundell's "Crime File" column which, this week, looks at four Australian crime novels. Appeal Denied by Peter Corris "is, as usual, familiar, assured and highly entertaining, written with Corris's unique sense of rational containment and his understated mastery of setting and social context"; Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarrantano is "thinly written"; Cherry Pie by Leigh Redhead is "well-paced, ribald and laugh-out-loud funny"; and Sensitive New Age Spy by Geoff McGeachin "while slick and clever, raises few laughs."

The Courier-Mail

Lucy Clark finds that a new crime novel by Leah Giarrantano is very disturbing: "There's no doubt Vodka Doesn't Freeze makes for extremely confronting reading -- the sexual abuse of children is at the extreme end of the worst of human behaviour, and what is catalogued here by Giarrantano is more than enough to make you want to bury your head in the sand. But there's a case to be made for being aware, and Vodka Doesn't Freeze doesn't flinch. Her knowledge of the reverberating effects of abuse on children is well explored, too, and she writes with great empathy."

Peter Temple Novel Extracts

Quercus, Peter Temple's UK publisher, have made available extracts from his novels, The Broken Shore and In the Evil Day. In order to access the extracts it looks like you'll have to register at the site. It doesn't look too onerous. If you're not keen on that then you can try the BugMeNot website for a useable login and password.

Australian Bookcovers #73 - Bliss by Peter Carey


Bliss by Peter Carey, 1981
Cover illustration by Andizej Klimowski
(Picador 1994 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 1981.]

Australian Literature and Film

Peter Craven laments that not enough of our (ie Australian) great works of literature have been turned into films or television series. His argument is that adapting great books into film opens the works up to a greater audience, thereby maintaining their presence in the Australian cultural consciousness.

"Novels are not the same thing as films, but unless there is a determined effort to make literature into film and television then we run the risk that literature will wither or fall into obscurity. And all the more so with the literature of a country such as Australia, where the novels tend to loom larger in our minds than they do for the rest of the world (quite apart from their value)."
I can agree with the underlying sentiment of this paragraph, but some of the individual pieces within it seem either cliched or open to debate.

Firstly, there is the basic assumption that UNLESS SOMETHING IS DONE then literature in this country will "wither or fall into obscurity". Nope, can't agree that with one. It's the old hoary "literature is dying" trope that is dragged out about once a year. Literature isn't dying, it's just changing; as it should. The subjects that literature tackles have been changing since the early part of the 20th century, splayed by the Modernists and then
expanded further by the post-splayers. The delivery methods will change now, which, on the face of it, may give the impression that it is fading away. It isn't. We are surrounded by more stories and poetry than ever before, and yet people insist that it's on its last legs. Just because it may not look like the literature you read in your youth doesn't imply its heading towards the wrong side of the grass.

Secondly: do novels really "loom larger in our minds than they do for the rest of the world"? Don't see that one either. I wonder if Craven is implying that we, as Australians, define ourselves in terms of our literary context. Do we see ourselves as real-life avatars of past or contemporary literary creations? I don't, and I doubt whether anyone else I know does either. We may, at one point, have been keen on seeing ourselves as a modern variant of The Man from Snowy River, but surely not these days. Not since the Second World War I suspect. Murray Whelan is more indicative of the people I relate to than anything by Martin Boyd.

But Craven does have a point when he implies the importance of film and television as a means of keeping our literature in the forefront of our hearts and minds. I think I'd be on solid ground in saying that film (and its cousin, television) represented the great new artistic form of the twentieth century. The novel filled that role in the 18th and 19th centuries and, while both the novel and film may have originated at an earlier time, they came to be their dominant cultural positions in the eras mentioned.

We are in the middle of a Golden Age of television. Series such as The X-Files (nine seasons and 201 episodes), The West Wing (seven seasons of about 22 episodes each), The Sopranos, (6 seasons and 86 episodes), Deadwood, Rome, even the new Doctor Who and Torchwood are redefining the way we watch and perceive the television artform. And, in the case of The West Wing and The Sopranos, may even be showing us a new form of literature and a new way of appreciating it. So the method is there. Television networks just need the will (read marketplace dynamics) to incorporate adaptations of the literary classics along with the newer works.

Literature isn't dead, it just needs a better publicist.

Max Barry Interview

Max Barry, author of Jennifer Government and Company, is interviewed by Mike Atherton on the "Great Writing" website. I'm not sure how old this interview is, though as it refers to Company coming out "next year", I can only assume it's from the end of last year. "I understand that for a lot of people, the US is superior to their country of residence in myriad ways, but I'm Australian. We have it all: the weather, the beautiful cities, the brand of football that involves neither padding yourself up like Santa Claus nor standing in a line in front of goal and covering your testicles... I'm very happy about having been born in Australia. It was a close thing, too; my parents are both New Zealanders. That wakes me up in a cold sweat sometimes."

Katherine Howell

Genevieve Swart, of "The Sydney Morning Herald", profiles new author Katherine Howell as Pan Macmillan publishes her first novel, Frantic. The author has done quite well first-up with sales in Australia, as well as Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia.

Howell is finishing up her second novel, to be published next year, and working on an outline for her third.

Poem: The Bishop and the Bagman by W.T. Goodge

It was at the Sydney station. It was Platform Number Four,
Where the porters always try to jam your fingers in the door!
And the Western Mail was drawing out when through the platform gate
Rushed the Bishop and the Bagman, both of them a minute late!

"D and B!" exclaimed the Bagman. "D and B!" he cried again!
But from faithfully recording all he said I must refrain;
For the papers wouldn't print it, and I very strongly fear
It was not the sort of language we would lie our wives to hear!

Yet it seemed to soothe the Bishop, for he seized the Bagman's hand
And he said in polished accents, with a smile extremely bland:
"Thank you very much indeed, dear sir! Your language I confess
My own feeling at this moment does not properly express!

"Your remarks were quite in season and I should be nothing loth
To express myself as you did, but one can't forget The Cloth!"
"No, my Lord," replied the other, "and no Bishop, I'll be bound,
Ever needs to do the swearing while a Bagman is around!"

First published in The Bulletin, 12 November 1908

Glenda Adams (1940-2007)

"The Age" newspaper is reporting that Glenda Adams, the Miles Franklin Award winning author of Dancing on Coral, has died at the age of 67 after a long illness.

Reviews of Australian Books #59

As the paperback edition of Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers is released in the UK, two years after the hardback version, Nick Claxton is still impressed with the work: "Although there has been some movement, especially in offsetting carbon emissions, since the book was first published, Flannery's criticisms of Australia and America in particular largely remain. And on a broader scale, the issues he raises are still as urgent as ever - and The Weather Makers is still excellent as both a Cliffs Notes for concerned readers to get their facts straight and an impassioned call for action."

The Literate Kitten, on her eponymous weblog, really enjoyed Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, but is decidedly unimpressed by the two subsequent novels: "JM Coetzee's novel Disgrace was one of the best I've read in a decade. Unfortunately, the two novels I've read subsequent to Disgrace thudded in my sensibilities like drinking Kool-Aid after a glass of Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet." Not a big fan of meta-fiction it seems.

Eric Brown runs a brief review of Sean Williams's novel Saturn Returns in "The Guardian" (second item): "In the first book of the Astropolis trilogy, Williams renders the passage of aeons, and the rise and fall of civilisations, with cosmic poignancy."

Les Murray's poetry crosses all boundaries and can speak to a wide variety of peoples. John Freeman, in "The Star-Tribune" from Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota, certainly seems to think so: "A great many gravel roads in his Australia are convict-laid, the assist-maker of first encounters between conqueror and conquered. Not surprisingly, the outback appears frequently in his work, especially in this volume. Even the poems that aren't about landscape manage to evoke it...Much of Murray's work feels like this -- weary of human folly, but not so jaded as to preclude wonder, and shot through with a frisson of violence. The Biplane Houses, named for an architectural style common in his part of Australia, toes a delicate line between these poles." (Last item in the combined review.)

Thrillers and crime novels, it seems to me, don't have to work as hard as poetry to be accepted in foreign lands. But that is not to say they don't have to be pretty good to rise up out of the pack and be noticed. In "The LA Times" Timothy Rutten thinks Michael Robotham's latest novel does exactly that: "The Night Ferry is an altogether superior thriller: intelligent, morally concerned, skillfully told and deeply respectful of both its readers and its characters. It is what Graham Greene used to call 'an entertainment,' which is a fairly serious compliment."

On Reading Poetry

"Reading Shelley, you can see that in the last of his few allotted years he had saturated his rhythmic sense with the forms of Dante and Petrarch. He doesn't echo their meanings: he echoes their structures. Similarly, Racine absorbed the structures of Latin poetry; and it is a nice question whether he is closer to Catullus, some of whose lines he mirrors property for property, than to Virgil, whom he does not materially transpose so much as imitate in his pulse and balance. These sonic templates, as they might be called, are transferable through time even when an instigator is unknown to a beneficiary. Dante gets effects from Virgil that Virgil got from Homer, but if we didn't know that Virgil had come in between, we would have to swear that Dante knew the Homeric poems intimately, whereas he couldn't, in fact, read them. It is doubtful whether poets, in order to know each other at this level, need to set out to memorize poems. The memorizing comes automatically with the intensity of engagement. And so, ideally, it ought to do with all of us. We memorize something because we can't help it, and the thing we memorise was written with that result in mind. Poetry is written the way it is in order to be remembered."

- Clive James, "Gianfranco Contini", Cultural Amnesia

Australian Literary Monuments #18 - C. J. Dennis


C.J. Dennis plaque, Circular Quay, Sydney.

The Bibliography of Australian Literature

I've written about Austlit, the online Australian bibliography, here before, and now the University of Queensland has announced its print counterpart, The Bibliography of Australian Literature. The third volume, of four, has just been published by The University of Queensland Press.

2007 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal

The 2007 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal has been awarded to Alexis Wright for her novel Carpentaria, which, you recall, also won this year's Miles Franklin Award.

The Grocer's Apostrophe 2

"Through the use of various attributes and status' [the project] will support the various customer types with varying functionality..." Believe it or not, the writer actually means "statuses". But rather than scrapping the word and using something like "states" or "conditions", the author has allowed their confusion about the intended word to totally undermine any credibility they may have had by utilising a meaningless construct.

It is interesting to note that this sentence is not buried somewhere deep inside a dry and dusty document but appears on slide 3 of a PowerPoint pack. It was written as a management summary and was probably displayed on a large screen, before a sizeable audience, using a data projection facility. I would have been hard pressed to suppress a groan when I saw this one.

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #23

The Age

I'm not sure what's happening with "The Age" website these days. Over the past couple of weeks book reviews have taken most of the next week to appear and this week we seem to be back to normal. Maybe it's the weather..

Thuy On comes to similar conclusions as other reviewers of Matt Rubinstein's A Little Rain on Thursday, namely that it promises a lot but gets a bit lost along the way. "There's no doubting Rubinstein's love of and facility for the written word and the book's convincing plea for all the languages of the world to be kept alive for posterity's sake. Often the metaphors and similes are beautifully evocative: Jack [the main character] pores over the 'peaks and troughs of ink', the letters on the brittle vellum are like 'tiny sculptures'.

"However, there are also dense passages full of arcane crypto-religious references and earnest semantic dissections that wouldn't seem out of place in a linguistics textbook. The novel becomes bogged down in its own erudition and becomes an unwieldy and heavy-going read, with the narrative becoming as vague and tangential as Jack's wandering mind."

Judith Armstrong also seems to have trouble with Antoni Jach's novel Napoleon's Double. It's an historical novel, of a type that seems to be causing critics and commentators, essayists and some novelists lots of concern of late. The question appears to be: is it history or is it fiction? I tend to answer this by asking if it's a novel or not. That seems to settle things for me, though not necessarily for Armstrong. "On whichever side of the debate readers align themselves, they may fairly correctly interpret the argument to be about the murky borderland between two clearly defined territories. But those who read this new book by Antoni Jach - and one hopes they are many - will encounter a slightly different generic puzzle. Although categorised as a novel, it doesn't feel like one." Neither did Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes, but if the author thinks it's a novel then I take it to be one. Surely novels can be anything these days, even poems if they want to be. Still, Armstrong does end on a higher note: "Readers who relish a discursive, original, faux-naif ramble through the undersides of history should enjoy it greatly."

The Australian

Up the snow, I think.

Extract: Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee

"The New York Review of Books" has published an extract from J.M. Coetzee's next novel, Diary of a Bad Year, which is due to be published in the US in January 2008. Not sure of the Australian release date at this time.

[Update: I've been reliably informed that the novel will be published in Australia by Text on September 3.]

Australian Bookcovers #72 - Just Relations by Rodney Hall


Just Relations by Rodney Hall, 1982
Cover illustration by Maire Smith
(Penguin 1984 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 1982.]

A Snippet

Margo asks for snippets. So, here goes:

The traffic wasn't too foul. There were a few hold-ups in Northcote when I got stuck behind a slow-moving tram but other than that it moved pretty well. Bell Street was its usual self so I was grateful to swing down onto the Tulla, put on a bit of speed and head north towards Bendigo.

I dug around in the open compartment under the radio and found a cassette to play. There was a faint hiss as the tape hit the heads which was followed by a lone piano and mouth organ. After that Springsteen started to sing about screen doors and cars and roads. And Mary. It always seemed to be Mary with him. Or Wendy. The tape sound was getting a bit ratty and I decided I had to trade up to a CD player some time soon. But I had other, more pressing financial matters to deal with first.

I'd sort of introduced the Boss to Susan way back when, back when we were a couple. She'd heard of him, everyone had, but had always thought of him as being a bloke's singer. He always sings about cars and death, she'd said at first. Maybe my playing him every day changed her mind. Maybe she was just trying to be nice. In any event she started to listen to the albums, and we went to see him when he toured in 1985. That was about the last time I saw her for over six months. She told me that night she had to go away for a while. She wouldn't say why. She didn't say how long. Next time I saw her she was with Corby, giving him the goo-goo eye, and avoiding mine completely. They were married a year later.

Of course, no correspondence will be entered into

Matt Rubinstein Profile

Matt Rubinstein is getting a fair bit of coverage for his first novel, A Little Rain on Thursday, and it continued over the weekend with Andrew Stephens profiling the author in "The Age". Comparisons with that Dan Brown monster of a year or so back are rather inevitable given the book deals with "an enigmatic manuscript, a church, a monk (though not an albino) and two scholarly types embroiled in a heady trail of mystery." But "Rubinstein, 33, is one of the few people who hasn't yet read Da Vinci but comparisons seem inevitable -- even though his compelling work, A Little Rain on Thursday, is in quite a different literary league, rich with characters and intellect."

Reviews of Australian Books #58

Miranda France, in "The Telegraph", is quite taken with Sorry, the new novel by Gail Jones, but implies that a tighter editorial hand might have resulted in a better book: "Any novelist who takes risks with language deserves to be celebrated. Jones has the nerve to use constructions that feel both arcane and new. There is no doubting her descriptive powers. However, in some passages, words grow so luxuriantly over the story that linguistic secateurs would have come in handy...This is Gail Jones's 'sorry' to her aboriginal compatriots. I admire her for it, but for all her sincerity, her afterword elucidating the word in the context of Australian politics strikes a pious note. [The novel's protagonist] is a powerfully drawn character, sympathetic and convincing enough to speak for herself. There was no need for the author to step in."

I might well have done three years of German at high school, but that was so long ago it might as well have been another lifetime. So, other than the fact that I can tell that this is a review of Peter Temple's The Broken Shore on the German weblog "Krimi-Couch", I have no idea of what it's trying to say.

Amy Freeman, an Australian author of young adult novels, has released a new book titled Mister Doppelganger, which is given a short, but appreciative review on the eMediaWire website. Hadn't heard of this one - looks good.

Jules, on the "Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast" weblog, nominates Steven Herrick's verse novel for young adults, By the River, as the blog's Wicked Cool Overlooked Book entry for the month.

What is it about Australian novelists/poets and verse novels? Not that I'm complaining, I juts find it weird that we seem to produce so many.

Extract: The Ghost's Child by Sonya Hartnett

"The Age" has published an extract from Sonya Hartnett's new novel, The Ghost's Child, which has just been released.

D.M. Cornish


I was most impressed with D.M. Cornish's novel Monster Blood Tattoo: The Foundling when I read it last year: a good adventure, excellent and inventive world-building, and great illustrations. I had read somewhere that the Adelaide-based author was aiming to bring out the next two novels in the sequence at yearly intervals, which, by my calculations, put the expected publication date of volume two as somewhere around April or May of this year. But I couldn't find a copy anywhere in the shops and figured there must have been a delay of some sort.

And it seems I was right, Cornish has a weblog on which he explains a bit about the delay and then drops the news that we will have to wait till April of 2008 for the next novel. That's a pity, as I was looking forward to it. But it's good to see the author letting his readers know just what is going on. Should be more of it.

Peter Temple Wins the Gold Dagger

Peter Temple has been announced as the winner of 2007 Duncan Lawrie Dagger award in the UK, for his novel The Broken Shore. Formerly known as the Golden Dagger, the award is presented each year by the Crime Writers' Association and is worth some $47,000 to the winner. Temple is the first Australian writer to be shortlisted for the award, and this should prove a massive boost to his sales in Europe.

Still Here - Just

Yes, I am still here, just not posting much. I'm at home, between contracts, looking after the kids and catching up on various business and tax paperwork. So let's just say I'm "resting", and enjoying the break.

Not sure how next week will go as I'm starting a new job and have no idea how much mental energy it is going to use up. Expect posting to be slow to start with.

Australian Bookcovers #71 - Shallows by Tim Winton


Shallows by Tim Winton, 1984
Cover illustration by Dexter Fry (Unwin 1985 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 1984.]

Alexandra Adornetto Interview

In October last year we reported that 14-year-old Melbourne student, Alexandra Adornetto, had signed a two-book deal with HarperCollins. The first of those novels, The Shadow Thief, is now in the bookshops and the author is interviewed in "The Sydney Morning Herald" by Steve Meacham.

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 MiĆ©ville
MiƩville's Hugo Award winning novel of two cities inhabiting the same physical location. A murder mystery with hints of classic sf/fantasy memes, from Dick to Borges, but in a European setting.

 Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
The 13th Jack Reacher novel. Suicide bombers on the New York subway and international terrorism mixed with hard-boiled action makes for an interesting brew.



 The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Heroic fantasy in the modern style. A fantasy that is laced through with noirish elements, and excellent characterisations. First book of The First Law trilogy.

 Where Have You Been? by Wendy James
What happens when a sister returns after being missing, presumed dead, for twenty years? James enhances her reputation as one of Australia's rising literary novelists.

 Wyatt by Garry Disher
Disher's anti-hero is back after an absence of ten years with a gritty, fast, noirish struggle for survival. All the best aspects of Disher's work are on display here.



 Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
A Young Adult steampunk novel set at the start of an alternate history First World War. Fast-paced, intriguing and totally captivating.



 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Dick's novel of the near future when the difference between human and android is barely discernible. One of the great all-time sf titles.



 American Journeys by Don Watson
Watson journeys into the heart of America, by train and car. There he discovers the best, and the worst, of humanity and society.



 Ghostlines by Nick Gadd
2009 Best First Novel at the Ned Kelly Awards. Murder in the art world involving political intrigue and business corruption in Melbourne.


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