October 2007 Archives

Shaun Tan Interview

Zack Smith, on the weblog "newsarama" interviews Shaun Tan as his new graphic novel, The Arrival, makes a big splash in the USA.

I always felt that the central idea -- of a wordless migrant story set in an imaginary country -- was very strong and simple, but I often worried about how it would be received given that it is fundamentally strange and ambiguous. So it's been extremely gratifying to discover how many readers have felt a great sense of empathy with the story, especially older generation migrants, and feel no need to question the unusual form. Although the book was originally published in Australia, there are many references to the immigrant experience at Ellis Island in the early twentieth century, and I'm hoping that the book will have a special resonance for US readers.
[Link via Blog of a Bookslut.]

Matthew Condon Interview

Matthew Condon, author of The Trout Opera, is interviewed by Angela Meyer. The piece was originally published in "Bookseller+Publisher" and Angela has now reprinted it on her weblog, "LiteraryMinded".

I think literature can take and hold a moment in time better than a newspaper, magazine or other media outlet. By the very nature of it being held, it can pose deeper questions than the press can offer day to day.

Sheryl McCorry Interview

Sheryl McCorry was the first Australian woman to run an immense cattle station (800,000 ha), and has recently written a memoir/autobiography, Diamonds and Dust, detailing her time on the land, her two difficult marriages and the loss of her young son. Christopher Bantick interviews her in "The Courier-Mail".

She pulls no punches in this at-times brutally frank and astringent book. Did she have to record her life in a fiercely uncompromising way?

"When I sat down to write, it all just tumbled out. Everything. My father called me after he had read the book and said you've written as you talk.

"But what I have written was the way it was for me. I'm pleased I have written the book as it has meant a sense of healing. When I wrote about the death of my son, I was angry.

"I rewrote it through tears and finally, the third time, I saw it clearly." While many books are described as Australian, McCorry's is the real deal. She can write with spare brevity and a kind of unadorned honesty that is at times confrontational and also profoundly

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #37

The Age

"The Age" has got its weekend book reviews up on its website earlier than most previous weeks - last week's didn't seem to appear till very late, hence the absence of this column - and most of the book reviews are represented except for, you guessed it, the one and only Australian book under review. Ah, well.

Delia Falconer looks at the last memoir of Donald Horne, Dying: A Memoir, who was "a public intellectual long before the term was invented. Horne was an intellectual thinker in whose writing a generosity of intellect shone brightly." Falconer is quite taken by the book, comparing it to one of best of recent years. "Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking was impressive in navigating and articulating a widow's grief. But, for my money, the Hornes' less mannered account is the more moving, especially in its portrait of both sides of a marriage; unlike Didion's, it made me cry."

The Australian

Simon Leys reviews Christopher Koch's new novel, The Memory Room, and praises it no end: "Those who have read The Year of Living Dangerously and Highways to a War won't need to be told that Christopher Koch is a master of storytelling. This talent is displayed, more convincingly than ever, in The Memory Room. The characters are alive and interesting: we care for them and wonder what will be their fate. The plot develops seamlessly, tensions build without any self-indulgent intrusions of literary effects (it is a characteristic feature of good novels that they do not allow themselves to be anthologised, they do not lend themselves to quotations: you absorb them whole, you cannot select passages or detach beautiful pages here and there; it all hangs together in organic unity). The diverse locations of the action, in turns familiar and exotic, are suggested with sparse and effective atmospheric touches. Dialogues ring true: they convey the characters of the respective speakers and propel the action. Should the book ever be adapted to the big screen (and I can anticipate the superb film that might be made from it), the scriptwriters will find the most delicate part of their work has already been completed for them."

Tim Fischer, ex deputy Prime Minister and second lieutenant, has a long look at Vietnam: The Australian War by Paul Ham, and finds that avoiding American humiliation was the prime objective: "It is a reminder that Australia did issue warnings to the US that it was all going wrong, and that bad tactics and poor strategies were being used. It also offers a benchmark for the performance of the Pentagon and American political leadership in relation to the Iraq War."

Christopher Koch Interview

As his new novel, The Memory Room, is released, Christopher Koch is interviewed in "The Australian" by Greg Sheridan.

Part of what the novelist does is unconscious, in Koch's view. Novelists can't always explain everything that leads them to write about particular themes and subjects. "I've never set a book in Europe. I've lived in Europe three times but somehow or other it wasn't the experience that engaged me in that way. I really don't have much interest in theories about what Australia should be doing in Asia. Writers to some extent are childish, and it's at the childish level that one really engages with any experience. What really moves you is at the very personal, childish level of the imagination. My business is the imagination and my imagination is engaged by Asia."

Australian Bookcovers #88 - A Family Madness by Tom Keneally

A Family Madness by Tom Keneally, 1985
(Lester & Orpen Dennys 1986 edition)

Peter Carey Interview

In "The Courier-Mail", Stefanie Balogh interviews Peter Carey ahead of his visit to the Adelaide Writers' Week next March, where he will release his tenth novel, His Illegal Self.

He has spent nearly two decades living in New York, but says one never loses a sense of being Australian. "People tend to think you do and also, I realise now, that I've got a kid who was born here who is 17. So I've been here 17, almost 18 years. In my mind it's not like that at all," he says. "I occupy that space all the time in my head but, of course, 18 years is a long way to be away, so obviously it's tough. But in my head I'm an Australian and I can't not be and I am in a very detailed sort of way."

Poem: Ballad of St. Dynamite by Grant Hervey

O Lord, in Thy Ledgers of Heaven,
   'Midst entries three-billions-and-three,
Let One Line of Credit be given,
To the Bards Who Have Blasted and Striven
   To make this humanity gee!
There is praise for the deacons seraphic,
   There are harps for the saints in the pews;
In the census of souls and their traffic
Keep a space for the Bards Who Are Graphic
   And abrupt in expressing their views!
For Thou knowest that each is a prophet,
   And that fervour abides in his curse;
O Lord, lest the Wowsers should scoff it,
Keep a page or a small corner of it
For the praise and reward of each prophet
   Exploding in Verse!

Yes, Lord, 'midst the rust and corrosion --
   'Midst the dross and the slush and the flam;
There is need for the Priests of Explosion;
So, here, I give notice of motion
   Ere the Books of Eternity slam!
It is moved that a saint's white apparel
   Be reserved for the Bard Who Goes Bang;
Keep a harp and a crown -- keep a barrel
For the Bard with a Fuse to his Carol,
   And whose psalm stirs the herd with its clang!
Yea, Thou knowest that Man needs a spasm
   To arouse him from slumber and worse;
When his feet graze the edge of the chasm --
Then, to waken the stiff protoplasm,
There is need for a Bard with a Spasm
   Of Dynamite-Verse!

In days when the hearts of the Chosen
   Were estranged from the worship of Thee;
When the faith of old Judah was frozen,
Didst Thou send them a score or a dozen
   Of Bishops in full panoply?
Nay, Thine hand from the earth mixed a Singer --
   Into dust didst Thou breathe forth Thy soul;
And the Bard who was fierce and a stinger --
He was sent as Thine own challenge-flinger,
   And he dragged stupid Man to Thy goal!
Wherefore, Lord, in a day that is cruder --
   Yea, when Man breathes his prayers to the Bourse;
As Thou blest then the Wakers of Judah,
Keep a crown for the Bards Who Are Ruder --
Who are Blasting an age that is cruder
   With Brimstone in Verse!

Keep, I pray, a fair saint-ship in Heaven
   For the Bards Who Explode With a Vim;
They have toiled and have called and have striven --
Unto each let a halo be given;
   Also, save them a harp and a hymn!
They are Thine -- 'tis Thy spirit volcanic
   Which inspires them to howl and to smite;
They are foes to creed aldermanic --
And in days when the earth quakes with panic
   There is need for the Saint Who can Fight.
For Thou knowest that he is a Preacher,
   Shoving hard at Inanity's hearse;
In the Day when each wakened beseecher
Calls aloud, Thou shalt say: "Bring the Teacher --
There is room 'mid the stars for the Preacher Who Blasted in Verse!"

First published in The Bulletin, 12 October 1911

2008 Adelaide Writers' Week

The 2008 Adelaide Writers' Week, held to coincide with the city's Festival of Arts, has released its line-up of local and international authors.

Prominent amongst the authors are Paul Auster, Geraldine Brooks, Peter Carey, Garry Disher, Linda Grant, Siri Hustvedt, Margo Lanagan, David Malouf, Ian McEwan, Gerald Murnane and Dorothy Porter. Something for all tastes it would seem.

A detailed program of events with full information on sessions and participating writers will be available in early February 2008. The main festival runs from 29th February to 16th March. I think the Writers' Week runs from 2nd to 7th March, but it's a bit hard to be sure.

Australian Plays to Film #7 - Hotel Sorrento


Hotel Sorrento 1995
Directed by Richard Franklin Screenplay by Peter Fitzpatrick
and Richard Franklin from the play by Hannie Rayson
Featuring Caroline Goodall, Caroline Gillmer, Tara Morice, and Joan Plowright

Founders of Our Literature: Lindsay Gordon

More has been written about Adam Lindsay Gordon than any other Australian writer. Possibly it is because he was out first poet to be taken seriously. Maybe it was that he was a man of high temperament and an extraordinary mixture of qualities who went out of life by his own hand. Perhaps all these things, together, are responsible.

It is a habit now of many people to say that Gordon was really no poet, but a picturesque stringer of rhymes. No two critics ever quite agree, but the fact that Gordon's works are still read and are a remarkably live subject still suggests that many people can find poetry in his "loosely-strung rhymes." However, that can be left to the debaters.

It is fitting, at the moment, to write of Gordon as a pioneer of our literature.

Nobody can truthfully deny him this. His bust, unveiled yesterday, has been placed in Westminster Abbey among the other immortals of British life and letters. This act is a literary canonisation which all the acid of criticism cannot eat away. For evermore in public esteem both in Britain and Australia, Gordon is an Australian poet by national recognition. No Australian man of letters has been more effectively immortalised.

Even if the best in Gordon (and who will deny him splashes of genius) had not been quite so good, he might have lived by reason of his extraordinary character as a man. Eugenists in those days would say that he never had a chance. His father had all the reckless nature of the son. His mother early developed a distressing mental affliction, and from her he received his strong tendency to melancholia.

From an untameable boy with a head full of Latin and Greek verse, he grew to an untameable manhood. He was expelled from school and his questionable association later put an end to his career at the Woolwich Academy, where he was in training for the army. Apart from his fondness for Greek and Latin literature, he found his chief enjoyment in the company of pugilist and jockeys. He rode and fought and was happy.

Fortunately for us his biographers have never sought to cover up his faults. Perhaps that is why he has become so endeared to us as a man. "Poor Gordon," we say from the depths of our hearts. So unfortunate! So picturesque! So melancholy! So sweet a singer!

Policeman, horsebreaker, politician, livery stable keeper, steeplechase rider, poet. What a mixture! And he was half blind!

The one thing Gordon never lost faith in was horseflesh. In all his mad rides, he admitted he could never see beyond his horse's ears. What a sublime faith in his mount he must have possessed always! Perhaps he rode on the principle that what a man does not see he does not fear. And he rode well, if awkwardly.

He fell frequently. He would ride only in hurdles or steeplechases. Once when he fell during a race he got up, caught his mount, set up a stern chase, and then fell again, this time to be severely injured.

Gordon's "leap," at Mt Gambier, is traditional now. In travelling on horseback he never took the road, but steered his steed across country, taking the fences as they came. He was recklessness personified, a recklessness inspired by the fact the he cared little whether it killed him or not.

Possibly the happiest days of his life were spent as the guest of Mr John Riddoch, at Yallum, S.A., where there is an old gum still called "Gordon's Tree." Into this tree he would climb after breakfast and sit there writing long after the lunch hour.

But in the end he tired of racing. At first he neither bet nor rode for money. Toward the close of his life he did both, and was ashamed of himself for so doing.

He could have been sporting editor of a Melbourne newspaper, but it would have meant attendance at race meetings which he now loathed. He had come to a dead end. The batterings which head and body had received brought on insomnia. He became addicted to opiates. He drank more than was good for him, although most of his life he was abstemious. The melancholy strain in his family history took charge. Small wonder that early in the morning of June 24, 1870, he stole out of his home a Brighton with a rifle and ended his existence in a tea-tree scrub.

Gordon came here in 1853, when the gold fever was at its height, and life was rough. He did not seek gold. Arrived in South Australia, he enlisted in the police force, and was sent to Mt. Gambier. His passion was horses, and when that died, he died, too.

We owe him much, of course. Few people who care for poetry cannot quote a line of his. Some of his verse was jingle, but some was not, and anyway, no poet who ever lived maintained a high pitch of poetic fervour throughout. There is good and bad in all of them.

He is sometimes classed as an Englishman who wrote poetry in Australia. Does it matter? He wrote according to his time. Most of the population then was made up of Englishmen living in Australia.

What does matter is that he gave us Australians something to hang on to, something to keep and cherish. And we are keeping and cherishing it.

First published in The Herald, 12 May 1934

[Note: this was published on the editorial page with no by-line.]

Reviews of Australian Books #65

In "The State", out of South Carolina, USA, Claudia Smith Brinson is impressed with Jannette Turner Hospital's latest novel, Orpheus Lost, which she finds to be "beautifully written and disturbing". There are some problems though: "An Australian native who is Carolina Distinguished Professor of English at USC, Hospital sounds a bit tone deaf when it comes to Promised Land, S.C., where the blacks speak colloquially but their white neighbors don't. And she's a tad too fond of poetic language that enraptures but does not develop character." In the end, however, "she deserves great and sustained attention for the fine eye and mind she turns to the problems of our times. We should listen to her music."

Colleen Mondor has a look at a number of different short story collections in the October edition of the "Bookslut" magazine, including Margo Lanagan's Red Spikes: "Margo Lanagan is an utterly unique writer and her new collection, Red Spikes is further proof that her surreal and rather uncomfortable stories stand alone on the YA shelves. Weird stuff happens here, but it is a Lanagan-weird and thus provocatively entertaining."

Jesse Karp takes on one of the hardest reviewing jobs in tackling Shaun Tan's The Arrival. He handles the job pretty well though: "Using the tools of sequential art like a life-long pro, Tan employs visual metaphor, panel size, lighting and color to make the archetypal experience of an immigrant leaving his family and coming to a new land personal, emotional, heart-breaking, breathtaking and joyful. The fantasy landscapes Tan depicts are both terrifying and awe-inspiring for their size and complexity, and every person the immigrant meets tells an involving tale of his or her own. We are drawn into this journey, into this land as if we ourselves were the arrival, unable to read the writing, understand the traditions, comprehend the complexity of the city, heart-broken over the departure from our family. And Tan does this all without using a single word."

The Great Divide

The Great Divide - People and Places is an interesting weblog that I've come across recently. Its main aim appears to be to post short biographies of interesting Australians from all walks of life, including Literature, Music, Exploration and general history. Each biography is timed to roughly correspond with an anniversary of the subject's birth. For example, yesterday's entry concerned Francis de Groot, infamous for being a member of the proto-fascist group New Guard, and who, while on horseback, upstaged the official opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 by riding through the assembled dignatories and slashing the opening ribbon with his sword. One of my favourite larrikin acts from Australian history.

On the Australian Literature front, the weblog has featured biographies of such people as Hugh McCrae, Coralie Rees, D'Arcy Niland, and Miles Franklin. This is one to visit on a regular basis.

Award for Michelle de Kretser

At the recent 2007 Frankfurt International Book Fair it was announced that "Australian writer Michelle de Kretser, born in Colombo. Sri Lanka, was awarded the LiBeratur-award for the German edition of her book The Hamilton Case, previously published in English with Little, Brown and Company, New York. The LiBeratur-award for an outstanding publication of a woman from Africa, Asia and Latin America in German language in the previous year, was awarded for the 20th time."

2009 Clarion South

Clarion South is a biennial sf and fantasy writers' workshop held in Queensland. Sean Williams posts with the news that he will be one of the tutors for the 2009 workshop. He joins Marianne de Pierres, Margo Lanagan, Jack Dann, Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant. Applications open February 1, 2008.

Author Contacts

Over the weekend I received a comment on this weblog requesting contact details for a certain author who has been featured on Matilda in recent times. I have a policy about this and thought it best to re-state it here on the main site rather than burying it in a comment somewhere.

I don't supply contact addresses - either snail-mail or email - for authors, publishers, agents or anyone else in the publishing industry. Mostly I get asked about particular authors, and I always point people to either the writer's publisher or to The Australian Society of Authors. This is the tried and true method for readers to contact authors and I think it still the best.

Australian Bookcovers #87 - Blood Red, Sister Rose by Tom Keneally

Blood Red, Sister Rose by Tom Keneally, 1974
(Collins 1974 edition)

Matthew Reilly Interview

Matthew Reilly, author of Ice Station, Seven Ancient Wonders, and the follow-up The Six Sacred Stones, is interviewed, in "The Sydney Morning Herald", by Angela Cuming, about the new television series he's scripted, "Literary Superstars". Amongst other things.

Max Barry Short Story

Max Barry, author of Company, informs us that he has a short story published in "Forbes" magazine as part of their Future section - you have to scroll down the page a fair bit. He was asked to wrote a story based on the following premise: "It's the year 2027, and the world is undergoing a global financial crisis. The scene is an American

Poem: A Ballad of Perfect Curse by Grant Hervey

A vision there is abides with me -- a vision of scorching verse,
Whose every line shall faithless be -- the essence of Perfect Curse!
An hour will come -- an hour sublime -- when I, with inkpot vast,
Shall fashion a grim and mordant rhyme, whose words shall rent and blast!
Red thoughts shall drip from the speeding pen -- they'll be written in god-like ink;
They shall reach the minds of careless men -- they shall force the world to think!
It haunts me aye, that vision of bliss -- O vision of joy perverse,
When I shall fashion with words that hiss the Ballad of Perfect Curse!

The looms of thought a song shall weave -- an anthem fierce and grand,
Whose flashing lines like swords shall cleave the shams that infest the land!
The roaring flails of rhyme shall beat, like hammers of massy steel,
When at last I fix in a song complete the thoughts that I sometimes feel!
The thoughts that come when the blatant world lies hushed in a cow-like sleep --
Like thunderbolts they shall be hurled, and the souls of men shall leap!
Aye, the earth shall start like a guilty thing -- shall drop like a toad its purse
When the shattering stanzas roll and ring of the Ballad of Perfect Curse!

The palsied creeds shall wither away -- shall pass from the sight of men;
And kings shall rush in a Judgment Dray, while he shall drive who can!
No more to cash the knee shall bend -- no more shall white men creep
Like prostrate worms to their journey's end -- yea, man shall be more than sheep!
The New Republic's flag shall fly -- new eras men shall see,
When my metred blast goes roaring by like the blast of artillery!
O song unsung! O god-like thought that my inmost soul doth nurse,
That by my pen may yet be wrought the Ballad of the Perfect Curse!

Volcanic thoughts sweep through the night -- red tides of lava gleam;
They pour their blaze of crimson light athwart my burning dream!
The pregnant lines take shining form, the long stern metres swing --
I hear thy voice, incarnate storm, for ever thundering!
Like vivid lightnings through my soul the jagged curses flash --
The blazing tides transmuted roll in rhymes, O God of Cash!
I see pale Cant -- it scuttles by, a dead thing in a Hearse,
And fetiches piled mountain high -- slain by my Perfect Curse!

A vision abides for eye with me -- 'tis a vision of burning verse,
Whose clarion lines shall perfect be -- the essence of Faultless Curse!
An Hour will come -- an Hour sublime when I, with an ink-pot vast,
Shall fashion a most infuriate rhyme whose words shall blight and blast!
Red thoughts shall drip from the speeding pen, and I'll boil down hell for ink --
I shall write an epistle to careless men that shall force the world to Think!
It haunts me, that dream of joy and light (O world where good dreams are scarce!),
That the gods have appointed me to write the Song of the Perfect Curse.

First published in The Bulletin, 20 June 1907

Australian Writers in New York

It appears that a number of Australian sf and fantasy writers are attending this year's World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga, New York, November 1-4. Just prior to that, four of them, Margo Lanagan, Justine Larbalestier, Garth Nix and Scott Westerfeld are signing at Books of Wonder on Saturday October 27th from 3-5pm. Margo has the details on her blog.

Matilda Visitors 2

It's now two years since I added a visitor counter to this weblog, and this entry is purely here for housekeeping purposes. October 2007 numbers: Visitors - 173,085 Page views - 236,563 October 2006 numbers: Visitors - 72,957 Page views - 103,739

Henry Handel Richardson Death Notice

Died. Henrietta Richardson Robertson (pen name: Henry Handel Richardson), seventyish, Australian novelist (Ultima Thule) who lived in England but turned for subject matter to her native country; in Hastings, Sussex. A striver for Flaubertian impersonality, she achieved it so well that few readers guessed the author's sex.

From Time, 1 April 1946

Australian Books to Film #29 - A Cry in the Dark


A Cry in the Dark (aka "Evil Angels") 1988
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Screenplay by Robert Caswell and Fred Schepisi, from the novel Evil Angels by John Bryson
Featuring Meryl Streep, Sam Neill, Dale Reeves, Maurie Fields, and Charles "Bud" Tingwell

Death of Steve J. Spears

"The Age" newspaper is today reporting that Steve J. Spears, author and playwright, has died at his home in Aldinga, south of Adelaide, after a long battle with cancer. Spears is best known for his play, The Elocution of Benjamin Franklin, but in recent years had been writing a series of crime novels. One such novel,
God's Diary, remains unfinished, though Melbourne playwright Rob George and his wife, Maureen Sherlock, friends of Spears, hope to complete the work.

Colleen McCullough Interview

Colleen McCullough, author of Antony and Cleopatra, the last volume in her Masters of Rome series, is interviewed for "The West Australian" newspaper.

Her mother's legacy to Colleen was haemorrhagic macular degeneration, a condition which affects the retinas and which has left her with no central vision in her left eye and only about five-eighths in her right, making reading difficult. The nerves in her spine are also crushed, making it difficult to walk. She can still manage it but says it causes her great discomfort. "I find myself more and more inclined to use a wheelchair because I get so terribly tired," she says. But unlike her mother, McCullough's brain keeps fizzing. "My body is ratshit but at least what's inside my head, knock on wood, isn't," she says.

D.M. Cornish Interview

D.M. Cornish, author of Monster Blood Tattoo: The Foundling, is interviewed by Miss Erin on her weblog.

What can you tell us about the next Monster Blood Tattoo book?

I can tell you it is called Lamplighter -- but most would already know that, that it is about 136,000 words long (Foundling was 83,000 words) that the Explicarium for Book 2 will be just as long as it was for Book 1, that it begins near on two months after Rossamünd first arrived at Winstermill -- the headquarters of the lamplighters, that it introduces a whole new cast of characters -- such as the hard-headed Grindrod, the lamplighter-sergeant -- whilst keeping a few of the originals, that it will be in books shops, by the grace of God, May next year (that is 2008) -- bring it on, I say!

2007 Man Booker Prize Winner

Anne Enright has been announced as the winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize for her novel The Gathering. Howard Davies, chair of the panel, described it as "an unflinching look at a grieving family in tough and striking language". Enright won from a shortlist that also included:
Darkmans - Nicola Barker
The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones
On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan
Animal's People - Indra Sinha

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #36

The Age

Stephanie Trigg reviews Germaine Greer's latest, Shakespeare's Wife, along with Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: "Shakespeare's Wife takes its point of departure from the standard accounts of Shakespeare's marriage to Anne Hathaway...[It] is best read, perhaps, as a brilliant anthology of 16th-century life: it teems with detail about births, marriages, and deaths, demographics, household management, religious controversy, and relations between family and neighbours."

And then it's all Australian fiction, which is a pleasant surprise.

Of Ron McCoy's Sea of Diamonds by Gregory Day, Michael Willams says: "If Louis de Bernieres had been asked to write an episode of the ABC's SeaChange, it might have wound up looking something like Gregory Day's second novel, Ron McCoy's Sea of Diamonds...Day demonstrates many of the talents that were on display in his first, the crisp and startling vignette The Patron Saint of Eels: a lively sense of humour, and a prepossessing sense of place."

Louise Swinn is very impressed with The Low Road by Chris Womersley: "It is difficult to believe that The Low Road is a first novel. It has the controlled pacing of an experienced hand. With echoes of Peter Goldsworthy's Three Dog Night, Kenneth Cook's Wake in Fright and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, this is both modern tragedy and crime thriller...Rife with images, it unfolds like a film."

Lorien Kaye on The River Baptists by Belinda Castles: "It is impossible to resist river-related metaphors to dscribe this novel, filled as it is with undertows and undercurrents; ultimately the reader is swept away." This novel won the 2006 Australian/Vogel award.

And Carmel Bird is captivated by David Malouf's The Complete Stories: "The stories of David Malouf are not easy to put into a category; they lift the reader across a line from memory and reality into another dimension without the reader's being aware that there ever was a line."

The Australian

Barry Oakley on Searching for Schindler by Tom Keneally: "Tom Keneally, irrepressible generator of fictons, is in a relaxed mood in Searching for Schindler. This is a memoir, so the stories and characters are already there: raconteur Tom rather than Tom the novelist."

2008 NSW Premier's Literary Awards

Hardly seems like the 2007 instalment is barely over before the 2008 version opens up. Nominations are now being called for the 2008 NSW Premier's Literary Awards. Closing date is November 9th.

Australian Bookcovers #86 - An Angel in Australia by Tom Keneally


An Angel In Australia by Tom Keneally, 2002
(Doubleday 2002 edition)
[This novel was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2003.]

On Other Blogs #36

Judith Ridge raises an interesting question about the way newspapers allocate books to reviewers in her review of the film "The Door in the Floor". Her point, made in passing, concerns the way "The Sydney Morning Herald" sent Nick Hornby's new novel, which fits into the Young Adult category, not to the resident YA reviewer but to someone with no connection to the genre.

I've skirted around this issue before - see my notes on an "Australian Literary Review" review of Richard Ford's Lay of the Land. I really can't see the point in reading a review written by someone who knows nothing about the genre in question, and isn't willing to move towards some level of understanding of it. It's a pointless exercise. A

A month or so ago we had the news of a European novelist who was convicted of a murder after police decided his crime novel show more than a passing acquaintance with some facts of the case that had not been made public. Now we have an aspiring horror novelist in Mexico who has been arrested on murder charges after authorities found various body
parts in his apartment. Reports state that there might be three bodies involved.

Max Barry is disturbed by the amount of research the writer has undertaken: "I'm sometimes asked how much research you should do when working on a novel, so let me say: this is probably too much. It wasn't just the girlfriend, you see; there's also a missing ex-girlfriend and a chopped-up prostitute. That seems excessive to me. One, I could understand. I mean, I wouldn't support it. You let horror novelists start cutting up hookers, and the next thing you know Tom Clancy is commandeering nuclear submarines off the coast of Florida...Call me a purist, but I prefer to do things the old-fashioned way: dismember people in my head."

Sometimes you get a certain blogger covering a couple of very interesting topics in the one week which are hard to ignore. Such is Judith Ridge who attended a seminar organised by the writing and society research group at the University of Western Sydney, titled "The Uses of Blogging". The seminar speakers were Kerryn Goldsworthy and Stephanie Trigg. It's best you read the piece. This is the type of writing blogs do so well: personal and informed.

Adrian Hyland Book Sales

Adrian Hyland won the 2007 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel for Diamond Dove and I had heard a rumour from somewhere that he was working on a follow-up, but had no details of the new book. Then, today, I found this reference in the October 2007 edition of "Bookseller + Publisher", under their "Wheeling and Dealing" column: "Text bought the...ANZ and translation rights to Adrian Hyland's Gunshot Road." And seeing that this information was out there I thought I'd check on the web to see if there was anything else:

Adrian Hyland's DIAMOND DOVE, the story of a woman caught between two worlds, who returns to her home in the Australian outback only to have a friend murdered hours after her arrival, and GUNSHOT ROAD: Two Emily Tempest Novels, to Laura Hruska at Soho Press, in a nice deal, for publication in spring 2008, by Peter McGuigan at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, on behalf of Mary Cunnane at Mary Cunnane Agency (NA).
That quote is taken from the "My Irrationalities" weblog, in a section titled "Industry Update" dated 15th December 2006. I wonder if this is a matter of the news taking this long to leak out here, or if Hyland sold his second novel in the US first. Either way I'm sure his new book will succeed as well as his first.

Poem: Books by Zora Cross

Oh bury me in books when I am dead,
   Fair quarto leaves of ivory and gold,
And silk octavos bound in brown and red,
   That tales of love and chivalry unfold.

Heap me in volumes of fine vellum wrought,
   Creamed with the close content of silent speech.
Wrap me in sapphire tapestries of thought
   From some old epic out of common reach.

I would my shroud were verse-embroidered too --
   Your verse for preference, in starry stitch,
And powdered o'er with rhymes that poets woo,
   Breathing dream-lyrics in moon-measures rich.

Night holds me with a horror of the grave
   That knows not poetry, nor song, nor you;
Nor leaves of love that down the ages wave
   Romance and fire in burnished cloths of blue.

Oh bury me in books, and I'll not mind
   The cold, slow worms that coil around my head;
Since my lone soul may turn the page and find
   The lines you wrote to me, when I am dead.

First published in The Bulletin, 1 March 1917

Review: The Whisper of Leaves by K. S. Nikakis

whisper_of_leaves.jpg K.S. Nikakis
Arena Allen & Unwin, 403 pp.
Source: review copy
Review by Perry Middlemiss

High fantasy is a very popular genre within the speculative fiction world. It can be said to have emerged in its modern form in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkein, and some might even suggest it reached its high-point there. The genre is characterised by its setting - usually a world very similar to our own - its historical time-frame - very definitely a pre-industrial age - and by its serious tone. Often, such novels feature magical or mythical creatures such as wizards, elves, dragons and the like, so this novel's lack of such supernatural or fantastical beings presents as a breath of fresh air.

Many years before the opening of The Whisper of Leaves, twin gold-eyed princes had a falling out and split their kingdom apart. One stayed true to his warrior past, while the other left home to found a community deep within a vast southern forest. In the novel's prologue, a descendant of the warrior prince, the leader of the Shargh tribe, receives a prophecy that seems to foretell the extinction of his people. The prophecy implies that the threat will emerge from amongst the Tremen, the forest people who have turned away from industry and founded a society whose highest achievement is that of Healing. The novel follows the story of Kira, a seventeen-year-old girl with a highly developed Healing ability, who the Shargh believe is the golden-eyed destroyer of their prophecy. Initially sheltered by the forest and the extended community on which she lives, Kira is portrayed as a rebellious spirit who toes the expected line only as a last resort. An incursion into the forest by the Shargh leads to her discovery and a series of armed raids in which a number of Tremen are killed. Kira's response to that armed struggle decides her fate up to the end of this novel, and into subsequent books, though how many that will be is rather uncertain.

A major component of many, if not all, high fantasies is the battle between good and evil, order and chaos. This major dichotomy is generally clearly delineated: there is black and there is white, with little grey muddying the mix. This distinct division between opposing forces allows an author to ratchet up the tension whenever the two forces interact, and to use them as a means of examining the mental and physical fortitude of the hero. Nikakis doesn't shy from this tradition - in fact she embraces it whole-heartedly - but she does shift the usual split from sword/magic to sword/healing, or, if you like, industrial/hunter-gatherer. As is again common in this genre, the good/evil split is usually based on race, culture, country or tribe lines. Here it revolves around both culture and tribe, as the two components are inseparable: all Tremen Healers are hunter-gatherer vegetarians, and all members of the Shargh are hunters or farmers of animals. This is not to say, however, that all members of the Tremen are warm and wonderful, and all Shargh are sword-wielding carnivores; Nikakis is not that simplistic. The major conflicts exist between the two tribes but there are other, more subtle, divisions within each which tend to enrich the tale being told. These internal conflicts aren't fully resolved within this volume. Some are, and some have a direct influence on the story outcomes here, but a number are obviously there for the long haul. You get the distinct feeling that the author has a fair idea of where the story is heading, and why. In a multi-volume series such as this, that understanding gives the reader a certain level of confidence that his or her investment in the extended work won't be time wasted.

There are some problems with the novel, which, depending on your understanding of the genre, will prove easy to handle or become a major obstacle to getting through the first 80 or pages. In order to set the stage for the rest of the novel and, in this case, for the rest of the series, a large amount of information - about the world depicted, its peoples and its history - has to be provided to the reader in rather large chunks. The worst form of this is the boring exposition technique, normally referred to as "telling rather than showing": "Now, John, as you well know, two hundred years ago our ancestors...blah,blah,blah..." and so on and so forth for a couple of pages of dense stupefying prose. Nikakis doesn't fall into this trap but still struggles a little to get the required information to the reader in a lively fashion. Once she gets past this scene-setting the novel shows a better sense of pace and it's possible to settle back and enjoy the ride.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that K.S. Nikakis has made an auspicious debut with this novel - it doesn't "blow you away" and tends to be a bit slow in places - but its world-building, its interesting take on some classic fantasy tropes, and its storylines set up enough hooks to ensure that this reader will be looking for the following volumes in the series.

2007 Nobel Prize for Literature

Doris Lessing has been awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming, I believe, the second science fiction writer to do so.

Australian Books to Film #28 - He Died with a Felaffel in his Hand


He Died with a Felafel in His Hand 2001
Directed by Richard Lowenstein
Screenplay by Richard Lowenstein, from the novel by John Birmingham
Featuring Noah Taylor, Emily Hamilton, Romane Bohringer and Alex Menglet

2007 NSW Premier's History Awards

The winners of the 2007 NSW Premier's History Awards were announced last night in Sydney.

Australian History Prize
How a Continent Created a Nation by Libby Robin

Community and Regional History Prize
Mixed Relations: Asian-Aboriginal Contact in North Australia by Regina Ganter

General History Prize
Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark

Young People's History Prize
Songlines and Stone Axes: Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia by John Nicholson

John and Patricia Ward History Prize
In the Interest of National Security: Civilian Internment in Australia During World War II by Klaus Neumann

The Audio/Visual History Prize
The Archive Project: the Realist Film Unit in Cold War Australia by John Hughes

J.M. Coetzee Watch #1

Long-time readers of this weblog will have figured out by now that I restrict the focus of Matilda to Australian literature - fiction or non-fiction - and to books that relate to Australia. I had a bit of a "scoping" problem with J.M. Coetzee in the early days as he was a South African writer living in Australia. But then he started publishing books with Australian settings, themes and characters, and then took up Australian citizenship. So he moved from being a difficulty to fitting in quite nicely. Over the past couple of years I've reported on his books, his essays, reviews of his books and his festival appearances with intermittent regularity. Now, however, I'm finding that he seems to be cropping up everywhere on the web. And I'm wondering if this is the usual case for Nobel Prize winners, or if I'm just that bit more sensitive to his appearances given he's the only living Nobel literature laureate we have in this country? Do Harold Pinter or Nadime Gordimer get the same coverage, or is it just him?

In order to keep track of all this, I've started a "J.M. Coetzee Watch" segment, with this as the first instalment. Don't expect any regular pattern to appearances of this topic. He's just as liable to plunk himself in front of his desk to work on another novel and disappear from view.

Recent web appearances: The quarterly "Hopkins Review" literary magazine is set to be relaunched and JMC is listed among the contributing editors, along with novelist James Salter, poet John Hollander and critic Harold Bloom.

In the "Business Standard", out of India, VV reviews JMC's latest novel, Diary of a Bad Year: "It is the questions more than the plots that make his new novel like the hurly-burly of the politics of our days."

And staying in India, Aveek Sen reviews the same novel for "The Telegraph" from Calcutta: "The structure is polyphonic -- a tribute to Bach, 'the spiritual father'; the plot secretly reworks James and recalls Kawabata; and the implied master-allusion is to Nabokov. Coetzee's latest work is a bottomlessly clever feat of intellectual virtuosity and authorial legerdemain."

I can't tell who runs the "This Space" weblog but they write pretty well. They were also quite impressed by JMC's novel, even though a Booker judge described it as "a piece of radical literary theory." "Diary of a Bad Year is an exceptionally moving investigation of what it means to have singular opinions in a plural universe. The short, diverse essays at the top of each page signal a diminishment of writerly power."

2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

The nominations for the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world's richest children's and youth literature award, have been released.

Nominations from Australia: Sonya Hartnett and John Marsden

Previous winners of the award have included Philip Pullman and Maurice Sendak. The winner of the 2008 award will be announced in mid-March 2008.

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #35

The Age

"The Age" continues to mess about with its book reviews on its website. I have no idea when they will turn up these days.

The major Australian fiction review is by Kerryn Goldsworthy of Charlotte Wood's novel The Children: "Charlotte Wood's first novel, Pieces of a Girl (1999), was widely read and warmly reviewed and her second, The Submerged Cathedral (2004), was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. The Children, her third, is written with skill and confidence of someone who knows that if she has already done it twice then she can most certainly do it a third time...Wood appears to be responding to calls in recent years for Australian fiction writers to turn their attention
away from historical subjects and towards the way the country is here and now, and to examine in their writing the lives of contemporary Australians and the way they have been affected by government policies, philosophies and decisions."

Actually, it's the only fiction review. Harpoon: Into the Heart of Whaling by Andrew Darby is reviewed by Christopher Bantick, who finds it "an impressive and exhaustive appraisal of current whaling practices and historical antecedents. Darby's non-fiction description is exceptionally good -- his prologue, in which he discusses what happens to a harpooned finback, is a powerful piece of detached observance that intentionaly leaves the reader restive."

Jeff Sparrow is intrigued by Maria Tumarkin's Courage: "Structuring a meditation on ourage as a memoir, so that your university life, motherhood and marriage nestle alongside stories from Nazi death camps might seem in and of itself a brave decision, in the Humphrey Appleby sense of the phrase." She seems to bring it off.

The Australian

Anne Susskind is impressed by Malcolm Knox's latest novel, Jamaica: "...there are not many men who can write like this, so poetically and with such immense complexity, about friendship, jealousy, insecurity, middle age and death wishes."

The Sydney Morning Herald

Desmond O'Grady finds much to like in Richard Woolcott's tales of diplomacy in high places, Undiplomatic Activities. "He must have kept a record of the quirkiest episodes he witnessed from the time when, according to his account, he was a cheeky diplomatic cadet but his account is not restricted to Australian diplomats nor to contemporaries...Diplomacy is not all beer and skittles or major policy decisions but this enjoyable book can give that impression."

The New Peter Carey

I wasn't even aware Peter Carey had a new novel coming out, but, according to "The Elegant Variation", it's titled His Illegal Self, and to prove it he's even got a photo of the galley proof. Amazon.com lists its publication date as February 5, 2008; and amazon.co.uk lists a date of February 7, 2008. They have a blurb which reads:

Che is raised in isolated privilege by his New York grandmother, the precocious son of radical Harvard students in the sixties. Yearning for his famous Outlaw parents, denied all access to television and the news, he takes hope from his long-haired teenage neighbour who predicts 'They will come for you, man. They'll break you out of here.' Soon Che too is an outlaw, fleeing down subways, abandoning seedy motels at night, as he is pitched into a journey that leads him to a hippy commune in the jungle of tropical Queensland. Here he slowly, bravely, confronts his life, learning that nothing is what it seems. His Illegal Self is an achingly beautiful and emotional story of the love between a young woman and a little boy, and a wonderful journey of self-discovery.
Che is always a good name. Best
Australian Rules footballer's name I ever heard was Che Cockatoo-Collins. Essendon and Port Adelaide supporters will remember him.

2007 Ig Nobel Prize for Literature

Les Murray may be on the second row of betting of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature but we can say that Australia has won one major Nobel prize this year: the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature.

For those not aware of this award, it's aim is to reward research that should never be repeated. In previous years Australians have won for research into belly-button lint, and for a paper about the physics of dragging sheep across shearing-shed floors. In other words, it's a light-hearted look at the world of research and is always every popular. This year Glenda Browne of Blaxland, Blue Mountains, Australia, won the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature for her study of the word "the" -- and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order.

REFERENCE: "The Definite Article: Acknowledging 'The' in Index Entries," Glenda Browne, The Indexer, vol. 22, no. 3 April 2001, pp. 119-22. The article is available for viewing
on the web. [PDF file.]

Australian Bookcovers #85 - The Big Fellow by Vance Palmer


The Big Fellow by Vance Palmer, 1959
(University of Queensland Press 1973 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 1959.]
[Yes, it's a library copy and that big black rectangle masks the library sticker. Best I could do though.]

Shane Maloney Interview

Australian crime writer Shane Maloney is interviewed by Lucinda Schmidt in, of all places, the money pages of Fairfax Digital. Nice story about how he came to be published by Text.

Voss by Patrick White

In 1957, Voss by Patrick White won the first Miles Franklin Award. Now, 50 years after its publication, Chris Middendorp in "The Age" praises its virtues and hopes that it won't be forgotten.

White's most remarkable novel, Voss, was first published in 1957. It's now 50 years later, and where's the celebration? What's missing is some appropriate commemoration for the book that was once considered one of our greatest stories. A novel that the author Thomas Keneally described as one of the finest works of the modernist era and of the past century has been barely referred to all year.

Is this a unique Australian characteristic? The Spaniards revere Cervantes. The French worship Proust. The English lionise Dickens. Who do we idolise? It's the old story: there's no end to our adulation of sport stars, but authors seem pretty low on our awareness level. I guess White's Nobel Prize for Literature can't compete with the Don's prodigious cricket scores.

Betting on the Nobel Prize for Literature

Leading British bookmakers, Ladbrokes, have set their yearly market for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Their leading contenders read as follows:

  • Claudio Magris 5/1
  • Les Murray 6/1
  • Philip Roth 7/1
  • Thomas Transtromer 7/1
  • Adonis 8/1
  • Amos Oz 10/1
  • Haruki Murakami 10/1
  • Hugo Claus 10/1
  • Joyce Carol Oates 10/1
  • Ko Un 10/1
  • Antoni Tabucchi 20/1
  • Cees Nooteboom 20/1
  • Margaret Atwood 20/1
  • Milan Kundera 20/1
  • Thomas Pynchon 20/1

Australian contenders, other than Les Murray, include Peter Carey at 25/1, and David Malouf at 50/1.

Bruce Beresford and Mao's Last Dancer

Australian director Bruce Beresford is preparing a film based on Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin, a Chinese peasant-turned-ballet dancer who defected to the US and ultimately settled in Australia. The screenplay is being written by Joh Sardi, who previously scripted "Shine".

Poem: The Dreamers and the Doers by Grant Hervey

I stood upon a distant star, athwart the straits of misty space;
The Earth seemed like a mighty Car, dragged on and on with dogged pace.
The Dreamers lazed upon the world, and dreamed at ease of visions strange;
The Doers strained their yokes and drew the Car across the ruts of Change.

With shoulders bent the Team trudged on towards a far-off, shining star;
I heard yawns drift e'er and anon from some bored riders on the Car.
I saw one Dreamer rub his eye, and heard him grumble and complain
Because his slow globe did not fly to that bright star and back again!

What fools are they, I thought, who let these lazy fellows growl and whine
And beat them, tho' they groan and sweat, with whips of words on neck and spine?
And Some One on an asteroid called out across dim space to me:
"The Doers drag the earthly Car; the other chaps write Poetry!"

First published in The Bulletin, 18 April 1907

Reviews of Australian Books #64

In the "Guardian", Kathryn Hughes relishes Sophie Gee's novel The Scandal of the Season, which tells of the events leading up to Alexander Pope's poem "The Rape of the Lock". The reviewer finds many similarities between the goings-on in early 18th century England with that country today: "Here, then, is a strong reminder that historical fiction, no matter how hard it tries to situate itself in the documented material past, is always engaged in an act of mediation between then and now. Just as Beardsley re-drew "The Rape" for the absinthe generation, Sophie Gee has rewritten it for the kind of people who keep up to date with the Prince William/Kate Middleton saga, even though they pretend otherwise."

Adam Bresnick attempts to come to grips with Cultural Amnesia by Clive James, in "The Times Literary Supplement". He has some trouble determining the book's audience: "At first glance it is hard to know for whom this book was written, as scholars will most likely find its courses too brief and too allusive, while laymen may well experience a certain bewilderment in the face of so much information." As one such "laymen" I've dipped into the book and haven't been bewildered. Overwhelmed, maybe, but not bewildered. But, generally, Bresnick does a pretty good job of reviewing the book: looking at James's cultural coverage, his writing style and his politics. It's a big book and needs a fair bit of reviewing. "James's volume is an exercise in what the psychoanalysts call 'anamnesia', or unforgetting, his attempt to present and preserve what he has found most vital in the culture and history that he and the rest of us have, to a greater or lesser extent, lived through over the past decades. That Clive James remembers it all so well and rescues so much that has often been forgotten is a testament to what an excellent, passionate reader he continues to be."

David Malouf's latest, The Complete Stories, is spreading out all over the US and reviews of it are popping up here and there. The latest is from "The Deseret Morning News" based in Salt Lake City. Susan Whitney finds that the stories build "an entire world, a richly described and fascinating world."

Australian Books to Film #27 - Schindler's List


Schindler's List 1993
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian, from the novel Schindler's Ark by Tom Keneally
Featuring Liam Neeson, Ben Kinglsey, Ralph Fiennes, and Caroline Goodall

Film Adaptation of Tim Winton's Dirt Music

We've mentioned the possible film adaptation of Tim Winton's Dirt Music here a few times in the past. The production will be directed by Phillip Noyce and feature Rachel Weisz. Now it appears that the filming has been put back to 2009. Noyce, who is currently in Canada, said that "it's a story that needs the right performers." Which, really, might mean anything. Remember that Heath Ledger was originally lined up for a major role before dropping out to play The Joker in the upcoming Batman film.

Markus Zusak Wins in South Africa

Markus Zusak has won the 2007 Exclusive Books Boeke Prize for his novel, The Book Thief. The winner of the award was "chosen by a panel of 38 judges representing book critics from the South African media who were called upon to decide which of the eight shortlisted titles they considered to be impossible to put down, a compelling story that is highly accessible to all book lovers."

Black Betty by Ben Peek

Australian author Ben Peek has a story, "Black Betty", available online at Lone Star Stories. The author also provides a bit of background on the story-telling technique, and how he came to write it, on his weblog.

Weekend Round-Up 2007 #34

The Age

John Button, who, as a long-time Geelong fan must be in seventh heaven this week, reviews two books on the Australian media: The Content Makers: Understanding the Media in Australia by Margaret Simons, and The Media We Deserve: Underachievement in the Fourth Estate by David Salter. Simons's book is a sort of "conducted tour" of the Australia media and "Although [it] is full of information and serious insights, there is nothing dull or stodgy about it. She is a very good descriptive writer, and some of that writing, like her descriptions of a Walkley Award ceremony or her interview with advertising magnate Harold Mitchell, is very funny." Salter's "book is a collection of informative and readable essays about journalism and the environment in which journalists operate." Even though Button is an ex-Labor minister he doesn't seem to approve of the present Communications minister (in the government) or Labor's Opposition spokesman. Maybe the whole Australia media scene is just a giant mess. Button thinks we "could do with more transparency and better public information." I agree. I just don't see it happening any time soon.

Pamela Bone, ex-journalist, is suffering from terminal cancer and has written a memoir in which she examines her own life, Bad Hair Days. Morag Fraser finds "This is a profoundly honest book. No exhortations, no heroics, no depth-diving in her own psychology - although the character revealed, almost inadvertently, is a fascinating and complex exponent of
20th-century feminism, bemused by her own daring, and by her own luck, good and bad."

Continuing the memoir trail, Richard Woolcott, ambassador to Indonesia and the United Nations, career diplomat, has written his in Undiplomatic Activities, which Michelle Grattan reviews. "Dick Woolcott is a very funny raconteur and his varied and distinguished diplomatic career has given him an endless supply of anecdotes. His slim volume is a laugh-out-loud book, enhanced by illustrations from cartoonist David Rowe, and makes a relaxing companion for an evening, especially if accompanied by a glass of good red."

The Australian

Pamela Bone's memoir is also reviewed in this paper this week, which Christopher Bantick considers "a rewarding and uplifting book".

The Sydney Morning Herald

I think most readers in Australia will be familiar with Tom Keneally's Booker Prize winning novel, Schindler's Ark. If not the book then Spielberg's film of the book, Schindler's List. (I would still like to have been in the meeting that changed the title just to hear the silly arguments.) Now Keneally has published Searching for Schindler, his account of how he came by the original story. Andrew Riemer reviews the new book and opines that "I am sure that Tom Keneally is incapable of writing a dull book. This memoir, listed as his 38th publication, is no exception." Though he does find that "He tells his story very well, even though this enjoyable book tends to hop from topic to topic in a
disconcerting way."

Lonely Planet Publishing Sold

Lonely Planet, the iconic Australian publisher of travel guides has been sold to the commercial division of the BBC in a deal reportedly worth $A200 million. BBC Worldwide aims to expand the business by branching out into magazines and television programs, though it is not expected that the editorial guidelines for the books will change in any significant way. The publishing business will remain at its current Footscray location under the same management.

First Tuesday Book Club

Don't forget that the First Tuesday Book Club is on ABC TV this evening, at 10pm. Books considered tonight: East of Time by Jacob G. Rosenberg, and Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Guest reviewers will include David Malouf (who chose the Melville novel as his favourite book), though I'm not sure who the second one will be.

The ABC have pushed this program out onto the internet quite well and it is possible to download a video file in either MP4 or WMV format. The most recent four episodes are available on the site as of today.

Australian Bookcovers #84 - The Irishman by Elizabeth O'Conner


The Irishman by Elizabeth O'Conner, 1960
(Angus and Robertson 1961 edition)
[This novel was the winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 1960.]

What's in a Title?

I would have thought that the title Global Savage would be quite a good one for a book about globalisation, nationalism and tribalism. Short, catchy, with some neat references built in. But not in the world of academic publishing it seems. Paul James, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology's professor of gobalisation found that the suggested title just didn't cut it. The final agreed titled was Globalism, Nationalism and Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back In. And the reason? "The publisher explained that the book's title was chosen to make it easy to find in a database search. A book on tribalism, nationalism and globalism is, after all, likely to get a more favourable ranking in an electronic search if the keywords are in the title."

I thought that was what sub-titles where for.

Demanding the Impossible: The Third Australian Conference on Utopia, Dystopia and Science Fiction is being organised by the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Monash University. The conference will run for two days, 5th - 6th
December 2007, and will feature the following keynote speakers: Terry Eagleton (Professor of Cultural Theory and John Rylands Fellow at the University of Manchester), Tom Moylan (Glucksman Professor of Contemporary Writing and Director of the Ralahine Center for Utopian Studies, University of Limerick), Lyman Tower Sargent (Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Missouri, St. Louis, and Visiting Fellow, Mansfield College, University of Oxford), Lucy Sussex (Distinguished Australian science fiction writer and author of A Tour Guide in Utopia).

Further details about the conference can be obtained from their website.

2007 NSW Premier's History Awards Shortlists

The NSW Premier's History Awards were established by the New South Wales Government in 1997 to honour distinguished achievement in history by Australians. The Awards are conducted in association with the History Council of New South Wales. The shortlisted works for the 2007 Award were announced in early September. The nominated works are:

Australian History Prize
Violence & Colonial Dialogue: The Australian-Pacific Indentured Labour Trade by Tracey Banivanua-Mar
Black Founders: The Unknown Story of Australia's First Black Settlers by Cassandra Pybus
How a Continent Created a Nation by Libby Robin

Community and
Regional History Prize

Darby: One Hundred Years of Life in a Changing Culture by Liam Campbell
Mixed Relations: Asian-Aboriginal Contact in North Australia by Regina Ganter
A History of New South Wales by Beverley Kingston

General History Prize
Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark
To Exercise Our Talents: The Democratization of Writing in Britain by Christopher Hilliard
Pistols! Treason! Murder! The Rise and Fall of a Master Spy by Jonathan Walker

Young People's History Prize
Kokoda Track: 101 Days by Peter Macinnis
Songlines and Stone Axes: Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia by John Nicholson
Joan of Arc: The Story of Jehanne Darc by Lily Wilkinson

John and Patricia Ward History Prize
Violence & Colonial Dialogue: The Australian-Pacific Indentured Labour Trade by Tracey Banivanua-Mar
Trustees on Trial: Recovering the Stolen Wages by Rosalind Kidd
In the Interest of National Security: Civilian Internment in Australia During World War II by Klaus Neumann

The winners will be announced on October 9.

Currently Reading


 Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
The second book in the "First Law" series. Epic fantasy written to honour the honour and explore the standard fantasy tropes, as well as to poke ore than a little fun at them at the same time. A big book, but still a page-turner.



 How it Feels by Brendan Cowell
A debut novel from a multi-talented author/actor/director. A coming-of-age novel which might well be semi-autobiographical.


Recently Read


 Monster Blood Tattoo: Factotum by D. M. Cornish
The third book in the MBT series. Will we finally find out who Rossamund really is? And will we be sad to leave this fully-realised fantasy world? I suspect the answer will be "yes" to both.



 Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn by Marshall Browne
Browne's first novel in a new series, this time featuring a Japanese detective, Inspector Aoki. This novel finds the inspector investigating an old murder in a snowed-in remote Japanese retreat.



 The City & The City by China Miéville
Miéville's Hugo Award winning novel of two cities inhabiting the same physical location. A murder mystery with hints of classic sf/fantasy memes, from Dick to Borges, but in a European setting.

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



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

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

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



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



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



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



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


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