June 2008 Archives

Murray Bail Profile

As Murray Bail's first novel in ten years, The Pages, is about to be published, he is interviewed by Susan Wyndham for "The Age".

Ten years sounds like a long time between books but Bail has not been idle.

"This seems to be a ghastly pattern: I started another novel and spent 18 months, maybe two years on it, then I put it aside. It's not to say I won't go back to it. It was nothing but a man and woman talking and I thought, aside from the difficulty, I was sick of men and women talking anyway but there had to be more underneath.

"The same thing happened with Eucalyptus. I spent a couple of years mucking around with a book that I wasn't comfortable with. I chucked that one out."

A Classic Year: 15.0 Coonardoo by Katherine Susannah Prichard

Katharine Susannah Prichard

This novel was co-winner of the 1928 "Bulletin" novel writing competition, and, interestingly, was submitted under the pen-name "Jim Ashburton"; which is hardly surpising given the book's subject matter. Also, oddly, the prize was shared with A House is Built, by M. Barnard Eldershaw - the pseudonym of Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw: two novels written by women winning a major literary prize in 1928, and both submitted under pseudonyms.

Coonardoo, the title character, is a young Aboriginal girl living on a cattle station, Wytaliba, in the north-west of Western Australia, in the early part of the twentieth century. Hugh, the young son of the station's owner, is sent away to school and while the early part of the novel sets the scenery, and foreshadows some of the personal conflicts that will arise later in the story, it is only when Hugh returns from school that the novel really gets going. Hugh's mother dies and he is left, in his early twenties, single and with a station to manage and run. The first of these problems is dealt with when Hugh returns from a holiday in Geraldton with a wife. The second will prove harder as drought and the tough countryside combine over the years to wear him down. But these are just a backdrop to the real story of this novel: the relationship between a native woman and a white man.

Much play is made early in the piece about Hugh's commitment to leave the Aboriginal women alone and find a white wife, a commitment that is at odds with the bulk of the European men in the district. He sticks to his promise in the main, except during a moment of disease and weakness when he seeks physical comfort in the arms of Coonardoo. As seems to always be the case with fiction, a child is born of this single liaison, and while Hugh doesn't openly claim Winni as his own, the affection he shows towards the boy is plain for all to see. Coonardoo stays mainly in the background of Hugh's life, managing his household and helping when and where she can. A succession of female children are born and Hugh's wife becomes more and more disenchanted with the hard, lonely station life until the two agree to a mutual separation. At this time, Coonardoo rightly believes she will become a more important part of Hugh's life, but, remembering his earlier promise, he avoids her physically and emotionally.

The great thing about this novel is that, apart from its convincing portrait of station life, it puts an Aboriginal character into a prominent position in an Australian novel. There is no sense of judgment from the author at any time: Coonardoo is shown as being both weak and strong, confused and emotional, but with a dignity that sustains her through a life of hardship and heartache. It must have come as something of a shock to most Australians who read this book when it was first published in 1929. It is an important book in the development of Australian literature and rightly deserves its place in this list.


The full text of this book is not available as it it is still under copyright.
Katharine Susannah Prichard
Wikipedia page
Photo of the author

The next four works in this Classic Year:
16. 10 for 66 and All That by Arthur Mailey (1958)
17. Lucinda Brayford by Martin Boyd (1946)
18. A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey (1981)
19. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (1967)

Chloe Hooper Interview

Chloe Hooper hit the big time back in 2002 with her debut novel A Child's Book of True Crime, which was shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Orange Prize. Now she returns with The Tall Man, a non-fiction account of the death of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island in Queensland. In "The Courier-Mail" she is interviewed by Benjamin Law.

Hooper was on Palm Island at the invitation of Andrew Boe, the lawyer who flew out to represent the Palm Island community pro bono. She'd given Boe her word that if she were invited in by the community, she would stick with the story. "I didn't know it would take so long, (but) I got hooked," she says. "What made me immediately so angry was that such a low price was put on Cameron Doomadgee's life. You can't help thinking: 'What if this were my family?'"
And "The Age" has published an extract from the new book.

Poem: Ballade of Frustration by Alan B.

I quail beneath the jursidiction
   Of all my creditors unpaid,
Whose ineluctable restriction
   Chains Poesy to sordid Trade.
   Where is the chant of pool and glade,
The splendid things I ache to utter?
   Wait, Fortune, wait -- ah, fickle jade,
This is a song for bread and butter!

Where is my book of deep prediction,
   Such as the thoughtful Wells portrayed?
The philosophic contradiction
   That puts old Nietzsche in the shade?
   Where are injustices inveighed,
Setting my readers in a flutter?
   These calls I haven't obeyed;
This is a song for bread and butter.

Then there's a book of glowing fiction.
   The stuff by which men's hearts are swayed,
A masterpiece of thought and diction,
   Warm with the love of man and maid,
   But still undone; and I'm afraid
'Twill have to wait, what time I stutter
   In quip and foolish pasquinade;
This is a song for bread and butter.


And lyrics, too, I might have made:
   Fine, flowing verse, sans halt or splutter;
But there's a butcher to be paid ....
   This is a song for bread and butter!

First published in The Bulletin, 12 August 1920

Reviews of Australian Books #89

Dean, of the "HA" weblog, reviews Barcelona by Robert Hughes and opines that this book "may be the culprit when it comes to allocating blame for the almost endless series of cultural histories that ushered in the new millenium". He means "endless histories of clocks, salt, cod, and everything else made or consumed by humans".

Jan Hallam finds the humour in Debra Adelaide's novel The Household Guide to Dying in her review of the novel in Perth's "Sunday Times": "There are no two ways about it: death is a difficult subject. We deny it, we don't talk about it, we rage against it or flinch from it when it comes near, bury our heads or lose our words...For Australian author Debra Adelaide, death is a subject to be confronted head-on and laughed at. In her hands it's a curious thing, a funny thing and, ultimately, a poetic thing...Never does Adelaide's tone become sentimental for sentimentality's sake, but after all the lightheartedness and bravado throughout most of the book, the heartbreak surely comes."

In "The Australian", Alan Gold looks at a fictionalised account of Errol Flynn's later life, The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson, and finds it "an awe-inspiring work of fiction."

In the same paper, Barry Oakley thinks that Tom Gilling might be struggling a bit with his third novel, Dreamland: "The second novel is supposed to be the hardest for someone who has made his mark with his first, but with Gilling it's his third. Dreamland keeps much closer to the ground. We've gone from magical realism to the ordinary garden variety, though we still have the Gilling touch. Topically, in these days of identity theft, the novel's protagonist decides to give his up and become someone else."

In "The Sydney Morning Herald", Tony Wilson is a bit disappointed with Boned by Anonymous, and even takes a wild guess at the identity of the author.

Short Notices

Amanda Kendle reviews Tuvalu by Andrew O'Connor, on the "Suite101.com" website, which she says "is a fast-paced novel, more than a coming of age and sandwiched between modern life in Japan and Australia, all seen through the eyes of Australian narrator Noah Tuttle. Andrew O'Connor won the 2005 The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for this novel."

Robert Black on Australian Nightmares, edited by James Doig, on the Oz HorrorScope website: "I was [...] excited when I first read Australian Gothic: An Anthology of Australian Supernatural Fiction by James Doig. He had uncovered an amazing array of 'missing' stories and forgotten authors. We not only received some uniquely top class fiction, but stories set within the Australian environment. It was also a joy to be introduced to authors long since forgotten, authors whose work was of exceptional quality yet somehow had slipped through the pages of history."

The WordCandy.net website reviews Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks: "I really enjoyed Catherine Jinks's novel Evil Genius, but its little-kid-friendly cover art and gimmicky opening failed to prepare me for the story that followed -- it was tough to recover from the shock of finding such hardcore creepiness in a book with a cover that looked like a Saturday morning cartoon. Genius Squad, the sequel to Evil Genius, is almost as dark as its predecessor, and its cover art is just as cutesy, but at least this time I knew what I was in for...Jinks has written an excellent series installment, building upon her previous story's foundation while setting up material for a sequel. (Unlike many middle books, I never felt like I was just clocking time.)"

Extract from Low's Autobiography by David Low

I did not pack my bags to go [from New Zealand] without sorrow at leaving many friends. As a small boy the opinions, too often comtemptuous, of outsiders on my choice of a profession had driven me into a defensive solitariness. As a youth, although I became gregarious enough to be socially at case in the world, I had continued to cultivate a private self-sufficiency and was wary of complicating loyalties and dependent friendships. In my early twenties, when not the window so to speaks I could stand my own company for long stretches without discontent. But for all that, in those black depressions which follow over-concentration, when all work seems fruitless, bad, waste of time, when the mind rattles like a pea in a hollow drum, and confidence is replaced by despair, I imagined with longing a second self that could know what one was at and estimate truly the success or failure of the attempt. At such times what a priceless boon would be a clear-headed outside judge, to whom one could toss one's piece with 'Good or bad?' and accept the verdict with confidence as from one familiar with the conditions of creation.

In Melbourne I was fortunate enough to count two. I shared a studio with Hal Gye, caricaturist, and C. J. Dennis, poet, was our inseparable. Before settling in Melbourne I lived as a fellow-lodger with Den for a space and finished my cartoons by night on his wash-stand while he read proofs aloud in bed. After that, Hal and I took our studio, and Hal arranged to illustrate Den's book. Thus the association was confirmed.

Hal was a fantastic chap, thin, with long hair parted in the middle, a way of waving his arms about and an irresistible wit. When he wasn't drawing theatrical caricatures for the Bulletin, or illustrating Den, he was painting water-colour symphonies with a dreamy effect which he produced by losing his temper with them and putting them under the tap. After the second jet of water the picture almost disappeared leaving plenty to the imagination, which pleased mightily those who had the imagination. Den's chief claim to fame at first was that he was the author of the Austrabloodylaise, a vernacular piece known far and wide in Australia, of which the opening stanza gives the flavour:

Fellers of Australia, blokes and coves and coots,
Pull yer bloody pants on, tie yer bloody boots.
But he was then deep in the planning of a volume, The Sentimental Bloke, which was to bring him wide fame and an honoured place in Australian poetry. Meanwhile Den filled in as a civil servant complete with two-inch starched collar and vest slip, an effect quite unsuited to his bony-nosed Roman face.

Here were a couple of characters in whose company I found rest and understanding. We could laugh, shout, sing, exult, mourn, curse the wrongdoer in the open, as we wrestled with our work. (I was always one to talk to my work as it came out on my old drawing-board perched on a broken arm-chair.) Our trio expanded into an odd mixture of fellowship. Painters, poets and writers, of course, actors, farmers, civil servants, business men, politicians, an occasional Cabinet Minister, and on one red-letter day even Melba herself, the immortal song-bird. All I remember of her was that she was a bullying woman who ate a good deal and swore a lot. It was all one. Even on the blackest days I found relief in that pool of goodwill. In no other company could I ever have tried the experiment of sharing a studio. I have had many since, but all by comparison have had a touch of loneliness.

From Low's Autobiography by David Low, Michael Joseph 1956, pp78-79

All I'm Thinkin' About

Pavlov's Cat continues her run with the Miles Franklin Award by successfully picking this year's winner.

I'm starting to think I should set up a separate category for posts about all the prizes and awards that Shaun Tan has been nominated for. The latest is "The Harvey Award". Forbidden Planet has the details.

Tracey Rolfe is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and editing at Victoria University (TAFE). On her weblog, "Speculating about Fiction" she contemplates the role of writer as celebrity.

In an article titled "Workplace Wisdom Found in Fiction" in the "U.S. News & World Report", Michael S. Wade includes Max Barry's novel Company in the category of "Insane Workplaces". Also listed along with Barry are Something Happened by Joseph Heller, and Catch-22 by Heller. Impressive.

Words Out and About - Janette Turner Hospital


Dorrigo National Park, NSW.

["Under the matted canopy the sun becomes furtive, it flickers, it advances by stealth, it hides, it is coy, it sneaks down through the tangle of treetops, creepers, leggy bird's-nest ferns, lianas, orchids, battling its way earthwards through layers of aerial clamour, slithering below ground fungi to breed green yeast. The rainforest smells of seduction and fermentation and death." 1992]

2008 Crime & Justice Festival

The 2008 Crime & Justice Festival will be held at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, from Friday July 18 to Sunday 20th, 2008. Tickets are now available, information about which you can get at the festival's website. There is also a full href="http://www.crimeandjusticefestival.com/CJF_Program_210608.pdf">program available [PDF file].

Helen Garner Watch #3

Reviews of The Spare Room

Kerryn Goldsworthy writes a long piece about the novel, concentrating on the concept of "Friendship". She has indicated she intends a follow-up posting about "Faith".

Marion McLeod in the "New Zealand Listener".

Helen Garner came to Writers and Readers Week at the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington in 2006. She arrived late because a friend in Sydney had died. The Spare Room is the story of that friend's dying, or rather of the time she spent staying with "Helen" in Melbourne while undergoing treatment for advanced cancer. The Spare Room is billed as Garner's first novel in 15 years. So I'm wrong to make this assumption, though the dates certainly fit. And for all I know, much of the detail is invented, though I don't believe that for a minute: this prose has the ring of "reality fiction". Let's just note that similarities between author and narrator abound. Let's call it autobiographical fiction.

Kerry O'Brien spoke to the author for ABC TV's "7:30 Report".

KERRY OBRIEN: With everything that you now have behind you and with what you still have to look ahead to, are you content? Has yours been a life not wasted?

HELEN GARNER: I hope. I tell you one thing that makes me feel I haven't wasted my life and that is I've got some grandchildren. You can't overestimate the kind of opening to the future that gives a person, I think. You sometimes think, "Well, OK, that's something I've done and they're walking around over there and when I die they're going to be still walking around over there, God willing" and that's a wonderful feeling of freedom.

Diana Symonds on the Stage Noise website.
Q: When you write "The end" -- or the equivalent -- are you happy?elieved? Sad? Disbelieving?

A: First, disbelieving. When you're writing a book you can get lost in your struggle to make it work. You think you'll never fight your way out. The day I realized I'd finished The Spare Room I sat there staring at the screen. Then I started bawling. Then I felt as light as a feather. I jumped on my bike and rode home. All the way I thought I was going to take off, I was so free. I mean free of duty. It was glorious. It lasted twenty minutes, till I hopped off my bike on the front veranda. Then I felt ordinary again.

Other The ... between bourke 'n' elizabeth ..." website reports on Garner's discussion with Caroline Baum at the Sydney Writers' Festival.

Garner is interviewed as she watches rehearsals of a stage adaptation of her short novel, The Children's Bach.

Garner has no involvement with the project except having given the group her permission to adapt the book and her blessing. "When I walked in there this morning, I suppose I wasn't really expecting to feel anything particular," she says. "I thought that it would be an intellectual experience, but when (one of the main characters) Dexter stood up and sang, this rush of emotion came over me and it plunged me into the past. "Because people that you've written about die. The idea that Dexter, that character that I wrote, that a young man who's young enough to be the real Dexter's son, is now getting up and singing ... that's very thrilling to me."
Slow TV has a streaming video of Helen Garner's talk about
her influences and inspirations from the 2008 Sydney Writers' Festival.

"Crikey" reports on ASIO's loss of focus during the 1970s. As an example there is a copy of part of Helen Garner's file.

The Sentimental Bloke Film

The "Filmschatten" website has available a copy of the 1919 silent film version of The Sentimental Bloke, from the book by C.J. Dennis. The quality isn't that flash, and I'm not sure if it's the full version, but it is of interest.

Australian Bookcovers #119 - The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll

The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll, 2007
(4th Estate 2007 edition)
[This novel won the 2008 Miles Franklin Award.]

Morris Gleitzman Profile

The second volume of a trilogy by Morris Gleitzman, Then, is about to be published and the author is interviewed by Jane Barry for "The Courier-Mail".

"I've always been lucky. I found out early what I was meant to do and it is never a chore," he says. Initially a screenwriter for television, Gleitzman evolved into writing for children more than 20 years ago and hasn't looked back. He says he became conscious a few years ago of needing to "write a book about two fictitious children who were representative of Jewish kids who died in the second world war". "I wanted to record what was the reality for so many of them at that time," he says. Beginning his trilogy with the publication of Once in 2005 and most recently Then, the third and final book Now is planned, though is currently on hold while the author hatches another Cane Toad saga from its larvae. Then and its counterparts are stories, he says, "that are primarily about friendship, which can transcend death and the situations people find themselves in".

2008 Locus Awards

"Locus" Magazine is the main newsletter of the sf and fantasy fields and each year runs a readers' poll of the best works. Australia has 2 (well, okay 1.5) winners this year:

The New Space Opera, Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan, eds. (Eos)

The Arrival, Shaun Tan (Lothian 2006; Scholastic)

Nam Le Profile

Following the attention Australian author Nam Le has been receiving overseas, he is interviewed in "The Sydney Morning Herald" by Michael Williams.

When we talk about his literary influences and the many things he loves to read, he cites poets first of all: Auden and Rilke, Tennyson and Eliot. In fiction, he cites Moby Dick, almost sheepishly confessing that he hadn't read Melville's classic before moving to the US. "I read it when I was living in Provincetown on the Cape [Cod]. There was a motel down the street called Moby Dick; another one around the corner called The White Whale. It felt like the proper place to read it." This awareness of the relationship between place and the act of reading or writing seems appropriate given the peripatetic nature of The Boat. After all, this is a collection that takes its readers from Iowa to Tehran, Hiroshima to small-town Australia. The playful shifting through different geographical settings came about largely by chance, as each story dictated. Setting, Le says, "depended on what happened to be squatting or taking up real estate in my head at the time".

Poem: Two Singers by Kodak (Ernest O'Ferrall)

The summer morn was bright and fair,
And bees were humming everywhere;
A frowning poet nursed his jaw
And listened to a squealing saw.

"Whoo-whee! Wow-zee! Whizz-kling!" The teeth
Sang to the red wood underneath;
The logs were loaded on the wain
And then the song began again.

The poet bit his pen and tried
The saw-mill's screech to set aside;
He could not think of anything
For that "Whoo-whee! Wow-zee! Whizz-kling!"

Before the screaming of the disc
His tame-lamb thoughts refused to frisk;
They trembled back to cells remote,
While the saw cut the forest's throat.

A bloke whose nerves were never raw
Shoved timber at the whirling saw,
And did not guess his honest toil
Was making someone's brain-pan boil.

"Whoo-whee! The red-gum's dying wail
Rose like the spirit of a gale.
The poet snatched his hat and ran
To interview the working man.

Into the sawmill yard he dashed
And sought the thing that sang and flashed.
"Stop that damned saw!" Someone cried: "Bill!
Stop that there saw!" Soon all was still.

"What's up?" they asked, and gathered round
In all the yard there was no sound.
"I cannot work," the poet said,
"With that thing ringing in my head!"

"I have Important Work to do,
And a Great Soul appeals to you
To stop the saw -- or stop its row."
A sad voice said, "Gorblimey -- how?"

"I do not know!" the poet cried.
The foreman called plain Bill aside:
"Hey! ask him what he does. Poor cow!
He don't look right to me, somehow."

Said Bill, "What is this job you're at?"
The poet beamed beneath his hat:
"I'm writing verse." "Oh, that's your lurk!
Gorstrooth! I thought you told us 'work'!"

He nodded, and the waiting saw
Began again. Into its maw
He thrust a log. "Whoo-whee!" it cried.
The cursing poet stepped aside.

"Isn't that fine?" the sawyer sang,
As the bright shield revolved and rang.
"There's music -- and just smell the wood!
I tell you, Digger, work is good!

"With that saw singing all day
A bloke's ashamed to take his pay.
What? Don't yer like it? Well, that's queer;
For music you can't have much ear."

The stricken poet rushed away
And did no further "work" that day;
That bard whose nerves were never raw
Exulted in his singing saw.

First published in The Bulletin, 26 August 1920

Tara Moss Interview

The "CTV.ca" website interviews Australian crime writer Tara Moss ahead of her next release Siren - out later this year.

"Publishing my first book was so exciting. But no one believed that a model had penned it, let alone cram it with details about forensics," says Moss, who moved to Australia in 1996 after "falling in and out of love." Teeming with slashers, sex and sickos, "Makedde Vanderwall," Moss' hot, crime-solving alter ego, had fans smitten. Critics and Australian newspapers, however, challenged Moss to take a polygraph test to confirm her story and her talent. "I gladly took the test and passed," says Moss. "Now I can say, unlike other authors, that I am a scientifically-proven writer."

2008 Miles Franklin Award Winner

Steven Carroll was last night announced as the winner of the 2008 Miles Franklin Award for his novel The Time We Have Taken. This is the third novel in an on-going series about a Melbourne surburb and follows the novels The Art of the Engine Driver and The Gift of Speed, both of which were previously shortlisted for this award. Carroll also won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Novel for the South-East Asia and South Pacific region for this book.

Edward Dyson by McD

In Edward Dyson's work there are few of the qualities that make for permanency and many of the weaknesses that ensure oblivion. It cannot be said that he was a great writer, even in a literature of which the adjective has always to be used at the critic's peril. Yet there is none of his representative work which, if it were being written now, would not brighten any paper that published it. His best book, Fact'ry 'Ands, has importance above the fact that it bred the Sentimental Bloke, and also above its unattractive title.

In the more popular The Golden Shanty Dyson's faults are most glaringly apparent. Scarcely anybody in it has real life, and the narrative content is slight, except in the title story, a whimsical fancy not at all badly handled. Generally, it is surface stuff, and the efforts to get under the surface here and there develop, as in "Mr. and Mrs. Sin Fat," into melodrama, or merely leave the impression, as in "After the Accident," of piling on the agony. Most of the humor, too, depends on polysyllabic meanderings such as:-

...his ever-watchful eye is open to detect an opportunity, however trifling, of increasing his diurnal income, and when he espies a goose, obese and matronly, making frantic endeavours to squeeze her portly form through a small aperture in a fowl-house behind a private residence, his soul is instantly fired with a desire to possess her -- to call her his own, if only for a few hours.
It is an easy thought that the influence responsible for that kind of word-spinning is indicated in what he wrote, apropos of himself, in 1912:-
To succeed fairly well from the breadwinner's point of view, as a semi-detached contributor in Australian journalism, this machine-like productiveness is essential. Quantity pays better than quality...
like Trollop's more historic one, a rather risky revelation. But the fact is that in this book that style is inherent. If it were not; if it were written on the quantity-pays principle only, it would almost certainly have been pruned on the way from newspaper columns to book; though there may be an indication that Dyson was a little careless of his work in the fact that in one story in this same book there is a fight over a barmaid, and then the first fight over her is described as happening several pages further on. But, for all the diffuseness and the shakiness of most of the narrative, the book is rich in a specific Australian atmosphere as any other collection of sketches outside Lawson.

The Australia Dyson specialised in was that of the worked-out Victorian goldfields, about which he himself fossicked before he was eleven, "wagging it" for the purpose. Though his pen never sank deeply into the character of his bush people, they live very clearly in a surface fashion, and the dirt on their boots is not all that is peculiarly Australian about them. The Golden Shanty and much of Dyson's swinging but indifferent verse came from that goldfields' fossicking, of which easily the best find was the knowledge he acquired of the coolie Chinese, whom he hated, and who have their bland revenge in being the truest creations in this section of his work. Here and elsewhere he wrote directly from experience -- a trifle too directly. At 12½ he was "assistant and housekeeper with a hawker of drygoods," doing the mining fields and navvies' camps, experience that broke out in the farce of Tommy the Hawker.

The work that seems to me easily his best, the abominably titled one, also came directly from experience; two or three years of his youth were spent in a Melbourne factory. There is a remarkable difference in the styles of The Golden Shanty and this book. Instead of the long wordspinning there is brisk and even snappy statement. Merely, "He suggested an amorous adjutant bird," conveys Mr. Ellis. The style is sustained:-

The idea of Fuzzy as a lover was the acme of the incongruous; he was so arid, so nervous, so thin, and so unhuman. No one had any idea of his age, but he looked like a man who had dried up at the age of thirty-six, and had since been free of all human infirmities...

That afternoon Fuzzy gave Sarah a brooch. It was of an ancient device, and had lost a stone, but was large and had some value as old gold... "You do so grow on a body," she whispered one morning, and this excited Fuzzy to such a degree that he was bumping into things three hours later.

There is direct action and ginger in it, as there is also in the incident of most of these stories, which altogether, and in one instance in particular ("A Question of Propriety"), present a picture of Australian factory life of very uncommon clearness, and, for all its caricatures, of fine human truth. For Fact'ry 'Ands alone Dyson deserves to be remembered -- that is, read -- gratefully by Australia for at least a little longer.

First published in The Bulletin, 9 September 1931

[Note 1: Edward Dyson died on 22 August 1931.
Note 2: To the best of my knowledge there have only been two editions of Fact'ry 'Ands - the original George Robertson edition from 1906 which contained 18 of the stories, and the 1921 NSW Bookstall Company edition which included only 12 stories. The latest copy of the first edition I've seen was priced at $125. So it's not a book that's easy to get a hold of in printed form. You can, however, go to our friends at Project Gutenberg Australia where a number of Dyson's works are available, and download a copy of this book from there.]

2008 Boston Globe Horn Book Awards

Shaun Tan has won an award in the 2008 Boston Globe Horn Book Awards, titled "Special Citation, for excellence in graphic storytelling", for his graphic novel The Arrival. These awards honour excellence in children's literature.

Straight Time

Roly Sussex, brother of Matilda correspondent Lucy, writes about the use and origins of the "F-word"; Gordon Ramsay gets a large mention, of course. The author mentions that the Scottish poet Robert Burns used it and I've heard it being used occasionally in the dialog of the television series "The Tudors", which concerns Henry VIII of England and his marital problems. Though whether this last example is historically accurate is another matter entirely.

Shaun Tan speculates about a movie version of his book The Lost Thing. And, in the process, mentions a possible adaptation of The Arrival.

The administrators of the 2008 Aurealis Awards have made some changes which Jonathan Strahan agrees with, and some not. In this era when we're attempting to reduce our paper usage, why would you drop electronic submission from the awards' process? Yes, reading stories on screen is difficult, but do you really need to receive a 300 page book to read one story of 15 pages? If you really want to read it on paper, then print it out. The relevant paragraph from the Rules and Conditions reads: "Electronic submissions are not permitted. Nominations must be submitted in hard copy to the relevant judges. However, when multiple printed copies of the work/s are difficult or expensive to obtain, nominators (particularly individual authors or small presses who face financial hardship) are encouraged to contact the Awards Coordinator to discuss. We endeavour to do all we can to assist the nomination process." [It's about half-way down.] So, does that mean if you ask nicely they'll let you submit a short story electronically? I've got no idea. Following on from this piece, the editors over at the Science Fiction Awards Watch weblog make a suggestion about how to resolve the issue. I'm not sure it's the full, or right answer, but it would be better than the current situation.

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak have been chosen as part of "The 50 Best Summer Reads" list in "The Independent".

The Curly Situation by Jason Davis

Jason Davis has alerted me to the online cricket crime novel, The Curly Situation, he is currently writing. "The story centres on Curly Gibson, an Aussie cricketer whose talent for accidental sporting success is surpassed only by his talent for getting shot at." So far five instalments have been posted. I wish him well with it. There aren't enough cricket crime novels around in my opinion.

Australian Books to Film #44 - Bliss


Bliss 1985
Directed by Ray Lawrence
Screenplay by Ray Lawrence and Peter Carey from the novel of the same name by Peter Carey
Featuring Barry Otto, Lynette Curran, Helen Jones and Gia Carides.

Virginia Lloyd's novel, The Young Widow's Book of Home Improvement, has been chosen as one of five books on the Borders Shortlist. Along with an interview with the author you can read
the first chapter of the novel. [PDF file.]

Reviews of Australian Books #88

In "The Age", James Ley considers The Boat by Nam Le to be an "impressive fiction debut."

And in the same paper, Judith Armstrong is impressed by Sophie Cunningham's second novel Bird. As is James Ley in "The Australian" who finds the novel a "family myth writ large".

Nicola Walker gets emotional in her review of Debra Adelaide's novel The Household Guide to Dying in "The Sydney Morning Herald". But in "The Australian", Kathy Hunt seems rather disappointed with the novel: "Adelaide has written a humorous novel that is not funny."

Stephen Oliver's new collection of poetry, Harmonic, has been reviewed in "Antipodes: A North American Journal of Australian Literature" by Nicholas Reid, and Oliver has reproduced the review on his website: "...it is full of such moments of luminosity, as it is of landscape newly and freshly seen. Lyricism, if less present than in some of Oliver's earlier works, is thoroughly disciplined, and when released, thoroughly appropriate and beautifully realised. Harmonic is a major achievement, and were I still teaching, it would have a place on my courses on twentieth century poetry. It deserves to be widely appreciated."

In "The Courier-Mail", Heidi Maier finds The Boat by Name Le to be "ambitious and compelling". Stephen Davenport, in "The Independent Weekly", was not impressed with The Steele Diaries by Wendy James, but seems to have completely missed the point. The commenters get really stuck into him. This strikes me as another case of the wrong reviewer for the book.

Short Notices

Paul Allen, in "The Coventry Telegraph" reviews Kittyhawk Down by Garry Disher.

Kimbofo, on her "Reading Matters" weblog, found Sorry by Gail Jones "disappointing", but was more taken with How the Light Gets In by M.J. Hyland.

David Pullar, on the "PopMatters" website points out that The Good Parents by Joan London is "stylistically simple and rather conventional."

Despite some reservations, Dan Dervin concludes that The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser "delivers on its intriguing premises".

2008 Canberra Writers' Festival

The 2008 Canberra Writers' Festival will be held in the nation's capital from 19th to 24th June this year [crikey, that's Thursday!]. There is a full program available, which features, amongst others: Lilian Darcy, Alan Gould, Marion Halligan, David Malouf, Garth Nix, and Michael Robotham.

Australian Authors' Book Club Days

In a rare, and pleasing event for Australian publishing, two Australian authors have been chosen as part of the summer reading list for the Richard and Judy TV Book Club. This is the UK equivalent of Oprah's Book Club and inclusion on the lists can lead to a massive list in sales. The Australian books chosen are Addition by Toni Jordan, and The esurrectionist by James Bradley, which I reviewed here a couple of years back. Jason Steger, of "The Age", talked to Bradley about it over the weekend. [Second item down.]

2008 Miles Franklin Award - Preview

With the 2008 Miles Franklin Award to be presented on Thursday June 19th, Jane Sullivan of "The Age" re-assesses the field. In case you've forgotten, the shortlisted novels are:
The Fern Tattoo by David Brooks, UQP
The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll, Fourth Estate
Love without Hope by Rodney Hall, Picador
Sorry by Gail Jones, Vintage
Landscape of Farewell by Alex Miller, A&U

2008 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

The winner of the 2008 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award has been announced as De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage.

The winner was chosen from the following shortlisted novels:
The Speed of Light by Javier Cercas
The Sweet & Simple Kind by Yasmine Gooneratne
De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage
Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones
Let it be Morning by Sayed Kashua
The Attack by Yasmina Khadra
Winterwood by Patrick McCabe
The Woman Who Waited by Andrei Makine


North of the Moonlight Sonata by Kerryn Goldsworthy, 1989
(McPhee Gribble 1989 edition)

Review: The Seance by John Harwood

| No TrackBacks
seance.gif    John Harwood
Jonathan Cape, 294 pp.
Source: review copy
Review by Perry Middlemiss

With one foot firmly planted in superstition and folklore, and the other striding out towards science and enlightenment, the Victorian era is the perfect setting for the gothic or horror genres. The 18th and 19th centuries had seen advances in the physical, biological and mathematical sciences but these had scarcely had any impact upon the general public until the invention in the 1870s of the incandescent light bulb, and the development of the long-life version by Thomas Edison in 1880. The use of electricity rapidly expanded over the following decades and it is interesting to contemplate the reactions of people when they first came into contact with it. It must have seemed incomprehensible - a force that can provide heat and light, yet which could also kill and injure in ways that would have appeared almost magical.

Little wonder, then, that people attempting to come to grips with the new "magic" might turn to old "magic" to define or make sense of it. John Harwood's second novel, The Seance, sits directly in this time period - the late 19th century - when science was making inroads into everyday life, and yet superstition and fear still held sway.

The novel deals with mistaken or lost identity, inheritance and sudden death, deserted, crumbling mansions and dark, forbidding woods. All the classic ingredients of a gothic story that leans in the direction of horror.

Constance Langton has spent the past few years of her life attending her widowed mother who has been pining for a younger daughter who died, and who later commits suicide. Constance is troubled by the part she played in her mother's attempts to contact the dead girl via paranormal means, and feels partly responsible for all that has occurred. In 1889 she learns that a distant cousin has left her a crumbling mansion in Suffolk. Her lawyer, John Montague, presents her with a bundle of papers that detail the lead-up to some shocking events that took place in the hall some twenty years previously. The papers are the personal accounts of Montague himself and Eleanor Unwin whose story seems to bear a resemblance to Constance's own.

The story is complicated and requires close attention, but it is just as much the evocative writing as the plot that holds our interest.

Monks Wood came upon us with no warning, looming like a black wave
out of the mist as we passed from grey daylight into near-darkness beneath the
firs. The rushing of the wind ceased, and there was only the muffled rumble of
the wheels, the scrape of branches along the carriage, and the occasional gush
of water from the foliage above. Shadowy outlines of tree trunks slid by, so
close I could have touched them. The knot in my stomach tightened still
further as the minutes dragged by, until the light returned as abruptly as it
had gone.
Emotional and manipulative? Of course. And so it should be. A very distinct part of the gothic tradition lies in the manipulation of the reader's and characters' emotions, leading both along twists and turns, down blind alleys and into scary dark corners. Don't forget that the Victorian era also spawned the classic detective fiction of Doyle and Poe. It was all manipulative, and all the better for it. Harwood knows what he is doing here: he'll spook you a bit, and seem to deceive you with sleight of hand from time to time, but you always have the feeling you are in safe hands and that you won't be left hanging over a pit, suspended only by a slowly fraying rope.

Two years ago we were lucky enough to read another Australian gothic novel, The Resurrectionist by James Bradley. That was a gem, and so is this. John Harwood's previous novel, The Ghost Writer, won the Best First Novel Award at the International Horror Guild Awards. This one should surely be in contention for the main award.

Matilda Visitors 4

Some time earlier today this weblog received its 250,000th visitor since I introduced the site counter on October 19th 2005. This is just here for housekeeping and record purposes.

2008 Australian Book Industry Awards

The 2008 Australian Book Industry Awards were announced in Melbourne on Sunday 15th June.

The winners were:
Lloyd O'Neil Award for outstanding service to the Australian book industry - David Malouf.

Book of the Year - Geraldine Brooks for her novel People of the Book (HarperCollins Publishers Australia).

Literary Fiction Book of the Year - People of the Book.

Newcomer of the Year - Pauline Nguyen for her cookbook/memoir Secrets of the Red Lantern (published by Murdoch Books).

Illustrated Book of the Year - Maggie Beer for Maggie's Harvest (Penguin Group Australia).

Book of the Year for Younger Children - Li Cunxin's children's version of Mao's Last Dancer, The Peasant Prince (Penguin Group Australia), with illustrations by Anne Spudvilas.

Book of the Year for Older Children and the International Success Award - John Flanagan for his novel Rangers Apprentice 7: Erak's Ransom (Random House Australia).

General Non-Fiction Book of the Year - Kaz Cooke for Girl Stuff (Penguin Group Australia).

Biography of the Year Award - Darleen Bungey for Arthur Boyd: A Life (Allen & Unwin).

Australian General Fiction Book of the Year - Monica McInerney for Those Faraday Girls (Penguin Group Australia).

Publisher of the Year - Penguin Group (Australia).

Chain Bookseller of the Year - Dymocks Garden City (Booragoon) Perth.

Small Publisher of the Year - Scribe Publications.

Independent Bookseller of the Year - Gleebooks, Glebe.

Specialist Bookseller of the Year - Boffins Bookshop, Perth.

Distributor of the Year - Alliance Distribution Services.

Publisher Marketing Campaign of the Year 2008 - Allen & Unwin for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling.

Bookseller Marketing Event of the Year 2008 - Pages & Pages Booksellers for A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

The Pixie O'Harris Award for distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of Australian children's books - Kate Colley.

Poem: The Dead Poet by Arthur Bayldon

Never again shall he with wizard sleight
Ensare on threshold of his soul the bright
Unearthly splendors that would oft alight,
And in the magic web of melody
Display them flashing as when they were free.
Never again shall he be inflamed by Spring
Soar to the gods to hear Apollo sing
Songs ah! so sweet and with so tense a lyre
They seemed as nectar flowing through white fire.
Never again shall he fold truths in rhyme
And thrust them clinging 'neath the wings of Time,
Shape a fine fancy with unfaltering taste,
Fondling the colors that the sounds embraced;
Or with eyes dim from dreaming watch the slow
Ascending sun's plume on a fervid glow,
And pinions palely spreading far away;
Or hear at night, when on his couch he lay,
The moaning of the moonlit toiling sea
With burden of o'erwhelming memory,
Seeming to carry in an undertone
Rumors of dauntless heroes he had known,
Who bearded even gods to glut desire
And fought beneath the thunder of their ire.
Lured by the glamor of translunar dreams
He chased through mist the ever-fleeting gleams.
Aloof from wealth's red bubbled vanities,
Contented to be thought not worldly wise
Since he, when flamed the mantle of the seer,
In mood majestic trod the magian sphere
Where nature's veil at his authentic glance
Fell quivering from her fire-bright countenance,
And heard, like an abysmal heaving sea,
The movement of the Eternal Harmony.

First published in The Bulletin, 26 August 1920

Tim Winton Watch #3

Reviews of Breath

Rónán McDonald in the "Times Literary Supplement": "Like Hardy's Wessex or Faulkner's Mississippi, the Western Australian landscape has been consecrated by Tim Winton's fiction. He has been garlanded with literary awards and acclaim in his native Australia, and has been twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His work is preoccupied with wounded or troubled characters, often haunted by their past, who set out on actual or psychological journeys in search of purpose, meaning and redemption. Dirt Music (2002) depicts a vast, hostile outback in which the individual self is tiny and threatened. In Death, the sea takes on a comparable role as an immense elemental force that simultaneously compels and controls the protagonists...While Breath deals with primal, mythic conflicts -- the clash of wilderness and civilization, self and society, youth and age -- it does not strain for epic effect."

Brian Doyle in "The Oregonian": "...he has actually Written a Masterpiece, the epic 1992 novel Cloudstreet, and if you have Written a Masterpiece, you get to be called a Master...Breath, his first novel since the linked stories that composed The Turning, is not a masterpiece, though it is a wonderfully evocative and believable story of struggle, a coming-of-age story, a tale of a boy who grows up too fast and has to put the shards of himself together again to make a man. A surfing story, a story of sexual awakening, a story of how so often so many of us are so lonely even while so jostled together, it's a powerful book -- sad and hard, in a sense, but filled with a sensory immediacy and deep understanding of how boys, especially, can be both terrified and arrogant at once, frightened and loud, attracted to danger and repelled by order."

Andy Martin in "The Independent": "Unlike just about everyone else, I thought Winton's early work wildly over-written. Like a Dylan Thomas
poem transported to Western Australia and doing hard labour: lots of great vocabulary, but nothing much happening. In Breath, he has finally found an objective correlative, surfing, to carry his tough, visceral lyricism. Winton on a wave is irresistible."

Stephen Abell in "The Telegraph": "Reading Winton's latest novel, Breath, one begins to recognise that his prose is a small-town songline: the dirty, droning music of life in working-class Western Australia; the hum within the lives of people stranded in that 'strange and tough' part of the world."

Kathryn Crim in the "Los Angeles Times": "Winton often locates a transcendent wisdom in nature, letting it guide his analogies to time, space, longing and the sort of existential entrapment that comes from being born into a particular place and culture. This is the recipe for his soaring popularity in his native Australia and also the reason he has garnered an international audience. In his best moments of controlled, evocative storytelling, though, Winton's descriptions eschew metaphor altogether and instead masterfully balance visual imagery with colloquial language. In Breath, the waves underpin the episodic narrative, whose most vivid moments occur at sea. It achieves that essential quality of a short novel: Its poetry becomes its imperative, its motivating and most risky venture."

Tim Winton reads from his novel.

Short Notices

BookOffers website: "With Breath, Tim Winton's writing has attained a new level of mastery. This book confirms his standing alongside Ian McEwan and Philip Roth as one of the major chroniclers of the human condition, a writer of novels that are at the same time simple and profound, relentlessly gripping and deeply moving."

Connie Ogle in "The Miami Herald": "Breath dives deeply into the dangers of addiction to thrills and the nature of fear, friendship, sexual awakening and guilt. Winton, author of Dirt Music and Cloudstreet, eloquently describes the allure of surfing -- even if you have to share the cove with a great white shark -- and the risk of challenging
an unforgiving ocean..."

Writing the Vernacular by James Devaney

As yet we have in Australia no hard and fast rule for the handling of the vernacular in fiction. Our writers are merely feeling their way, each tackling the question in his own fashion. The results are interesting.

In speech it is often necessary to set out the speech of the uncultured, the ungrammatical, the fellow who drops his "h's" and his "g's" and murders vowel sounds. How should such speech be printed in good fiction? Plain dialect is easy enough, for it is definite, but the vernacular is not dialect. If the navvy or the bullocky has to say, in his own way, "I am going to believe what you say," the author may print it just like that; or like this, "I ain't gunna b'lieve whatcher say"; or he may be content with a mere indication, "I ain't going to believe what you say."

The second and literal interpretation is the most exact one, but it does not follow that it is the best. It is overdone and it offends the eye. And it is quite unnecessary. The third version, I would maintain, expresses all that needs to be expressed. I do not agree with writers who bar entirely all interference with spelling to attain the vernacular, relying only upon phrasing and rhythm to express the speech of the uneducated. That is sometimes enough, but not always. It tends to make the newsboy talk like the professor, and both like the author himself. Whatever is still debatable, it is certain that all the ins and outs of a man's lingo need not and must not be followed to get strict accuracy. Edward Dyson does this, and the result is horrible. Here is a bit from "Fact'ry 'Ands":-

Ther graft wasn't what yeh'd call 'ard, 'n' it suited me complaint t' lie there 'n' lurk, waiting fer ther little lydies 'n' ther stout gents ter 'it ther pipe.
Dyson's matter, his invention and his humor are first class, and he does perhaps get the Australian drawl, but that sort of vernacular throughout would damn any book.

The truth is that a writer can get the effect he wants by phraseology and choice of words, with only an occasional resort to home-made phonetic spelling. That he can get it without bad spelling at all is a question worthy of debate. I believe that he cannot. A correctly-printed phrase like "Me and Billo had a pint" expresses your prolétaire at once; there is no need to print it: "Me an' Billo 'ad er pint." I think it would be bad art to do so.

I should say that the dropping of the hard initial "h" and of the "g" at the end of present participles is justified. So are "me" for "my," "ain't" for "are not," and a very few more. But one sees much otherwise excellent prose ruined by the overdoing of the vernacular, till dialogue reads like a Penny Comic. "Ther" for "the," "ter" for "to," "orl" for "all," and such horrors are never justified and never effective because there are never so spoken, if the letter "r" has any value at all. Your rough diamond might say "Oh lor!" but no one ever said "Gord" or "arsk" or "tork."

Our writers of fiction are still uncertain about the slurred "you." We see it written as "y'," "yer," and "yeh," and so on, and perhaps the first is the least of these evils. They seem unnecessary because we all slur small words. We all occasionally say "o'" for of, "t'" for to, "th'" for the, "an'" or "'n'" for and. Why then torture and uglify the text with such letterpress contortions?

First published in The Bulletin, 14 August 1929


Dean, from the "HA" [Happy Antipodean] weblog, decided to head up to the Northern Tablelands of NSW to visit the site of the Myall Creek Massacre. A recent book on the massacre was discussed last week on the ABC's "First Tuesday Book Club" program.

I'm with Susan Johnson as she strips away the artifice from Ali Smith's novels and as she longs for substance over style.

Michael Gorey went to Dingley Dell, the cottage where Adam Lindsay Gordon once lived.

Steve Meacham, in "The Sydney Morning Herald", reveals that Kenneth Slessor's masterpiece, "Five Bells", was almost titled "Six Bells".

Jonathan Strahan took part in a roundtable discussion on the "SF Signal" website on the topic: "Who Are Tomorrow's Big Genre Stars? (+ The Top 18 Genre Authors To Keep an Eye On)". Keep an eye out for Margo Lanagan and Cat Sparks.

D.M. Cornish has seen the cover of the French edition of Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling, and, as one of his commenters says, it looks a bit like Edward Gorey. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Australian Books to Film #43 - The Great McCarthy


The Great Macarthy 1975
Directed by David Baker
Screenplay by David Baker from the novel A Salute to the Great Macarthy by Barry Oakley
Featuring John Jarratt, Judy Morris, Kate Fitzpatrick and Barry Humphries.

J.M. Coetzee Watch #8

Reviews of Inner Workings: Literary Essays 2000-2005

V.V. in "Business Standard": "What is important to bear in mind is that Coetzee's focus is on particular novels rather than on the authors' lives: we read these essays not as retrospective appreciations but as engagements with contemporary concerns. Coetzee expects fiction to be judged by its relevance to our lives today, not by abstract notions of 'good' and 'bad'. To this extent, these essays would make us go back to writers we haven't read or to re-read them if we have in a new light."

Reviews of Disgrace

Scot McKnight on the "Jesus Creed" weblog: "...the absence of hope that we find in Cry, the Beloved Country, the almost apocalyptic shift in times from Alan Paton's days to J.M. Coetzee's, and the fuller, bolder, balder presence of dark crime created for me a sense of powerlessness and a grim acceptance of harsh realities. The violence against his daughter Lucy is unbelievably accepted into fatalism, a stance that for me betrayed any sense of justice and morality."

The "Redhead Ramble" weblog wasn't too happy with it: "Now, I can see that the writing is very good, that Coetzee is making a comment on life in post-aparteid South Africa. But I found it very cold, everything seemed so sort of mean. What is with all the stuff about dogs? There is not a single person in the novel [whose] actions made any sense to me -- why was everyone just sort of letting stuff happen to them passively. I didn't care at all about David's Byron Operetta. The character of Petrus, annoyed me as much as he did David. Frustratingly, I wanted to know more of the female characters thoughts, so much is left unexplained. The only positive is the novel is short.."

But the "C'est la vie" weblog found it a "fascinating novel with dark undertones".

Reviews of Waiting for the Barbarians

Zakes Mda in the "Boston Review": "Waiting for the Barbarians upset the expectations of many readers and critics who had grown accustomed to documentary representations of South Africa from the country's interpreters. The novel was seen as the height of self-indulgence: life under apartheid demanded that writers create a translucent window through which the outside world could see authentic oppression. Some critics claimed that Coetzee's use of allegory was an escape from South African reality because the novel, set in a nameless empire and lacking specificity of locale and period, was susceptible to an ahistorical and apolitical reading. The question of the author's political commitment was raised not only in response to this novel but all his subsequent ones. Even Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer weighed in that Coetzee's work, and indeed Coetzee himself, abhorred all political and revolutionary solutions. While acknowledging that Coetzee's work was magnificent, and commending his superb and fearless creative energy, she rapped him on the knuckles for a mode of storytelling that kept him aloof from the grubby and tragic events of South Africa."


Gvwr wonders if the author is related to an uncle by the name of Llewellyn Coetzee, who lives in Namibia.
The film version of Disgrace is due for release later this year, and now John Malkovich - who plays the lead in this film - has suggested to award-winning filmmaker Santosh Sivan that he
direct a film adaptation of Waiting for the Barbarians.
Coetzee has been nominated for the South African "Sunday Times" Fiction Literary Prize. Not sure for what, however.

Shirley Hazzard the Greatest?

Bryan Appleyard, of "The Independent", wants to know if Shirley Hazzard is the greatest novelist of the
20th century?

One of her novels, The Transit of Venus, was described to me by a man who knows as "the greatest novel written in the past 100 years". Having read it, I can see his point. Another, The Great Fire, so overwhelmed me that I came close to being unable to read the last three pages. If the last sentence doesn't make you gasp and weep, you are not fully conscious. Yet she is underappreciated. Oh, she has won awards here and there, but somehow she is not routinely listed among the greats of the contemporary novel. It is time to put this right.

Preserving Literary Collections

For at least the past twenty years, and maybe even as long as thirty, I've been a party to discussions relating to what could or should be done to help preserve the large number of private science fiction collections in this country. Probably more than any other group of readers and enthusiasts, science fiction and fantasy fans tend to collect and hoard: everything from bookmarks and convention membership badges to club flyers and movie figurines. Some of this ephemera is quite rare and valuable, and helps provide a view of the times in which we have lived. [From somewhere I have this memory of reading a report about a group of Sydney sf fans who were interrogated during the Second World War about the amateur sf magazines they were receiving in the mail from overseas. It seems some of the slang and acronyms were being investigated as possible wartime code.]

So those conversations have continued on and off over the years, generally at sf conventions and generally after a noted sf collector had died. There was nowhere in Australia that allowed for a single point of contact, somewhere to deposit collections where people could be sure they would be looked after. A few universities have taken collections - long-term fan Leigh Edmonds deposited his fanzine collection with a university in Western Australia - but this was haphazard and uncoordinated.

Now, it seems a group in Australia has set up an organisation to work towards this preservation aim. Long-term plans are in place and now all that needs to be done is to raise the capital to achieve their goals. It is possible to join the group to support the cause, and that's something I'll be attempting to do as soon as I can.

A Classic Year: 14.0 The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

magic_pudding.jpg The Magic Pudding
Norman Lindsay

The Magic Pudding is a classic of world children's literature, not merely Australian. The novel follows the exploits of Bill Barnacle the sailor, Bunyp Bluegum the koala, and Sam Sawnoff the penguin, as they try to keep their magical pudding out of the reach of the notorious Pudding Thieves. The pudding of the title has the ability to change from savoury to sweet - depending on the requirements of its owners - and to never run out. Definitely a case of "having your cake" and being able to eat it as well.

Liberally illustrated by the author and peppered with poems and songs, the book pokes gentle fun at all parts of society: justice and the law, bureacracy and the avaricious nature of the great unawashed. In his introduction to the New York Review Children's Collection 2004 reprint edition, Philip Pullman described the book as "the funniest book ever written."


The full text of this book is not available as it it is still under copyright.
Norman Lindsay Wikipedia page
The Magic Pudding Wikipedia page
Photo of the author.

The next four works in this Classic Year:
15. Coonardoo by Katherine Susannah Prichard (1929)
16. 10 for 66 and All That by Arthur Mailey (1958)
17. Lucinda Brayford by Martin Boyd (1946)
18. A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey (1981)


Back to Bool Bool by Brent of Bin Bin (Miles Franklin), 1931
(Angus and Robertson 1956 edition)

Slow TV Revisited

It's been a few months since I last mentioned Slow TV, the video podcast from "The Monthly" magazine, and quite a few new videos have been made available.

Recent entries of interest include:
Luke Davies discussing God of Speed
Deborah Robertson from Adelaide Writers' Week
Tim Winton in conversation with Martin Flanagan
Christos Tsiolkas from the Sydney Writers' Festival
Helen Garner from the Sydney Writers' Festival
Kate Jennings in conversation with Eliot Perlman
Michelle de Kretser in conversation with Gail Jones
David Marr and Gideon Haigh discuss journalism.

Germaine Greer Interview

Elizabeth Renzetti of "The Globe and Mail" interviewed Germaine Greer about her new book, Shakespeare's Wife.

"Someone will say to me, 'Do you know how much you frighten people?' " she says, settling into a wooden bench in the farmhouse's shade. "The only thing I can say is, 'Not enough. Nowhere near enough.' "

This brings us to Shakespeare's Wife, which is in many ways the continuation of a feminist recipe that began simmering with The Female Eunuch, reached a rolling boil in Sex and Destiny, and blew its menopausal lid with The Change. The new book is Greer's attempt to stitch together a portrait of Hathaway from history's crumbling threads, to challenge the "Shakespeare wallahs," who seemed to think that "wife is a four-letter word."

Not surprisingly, she has a theory about why great men's wives are vilified or ignored through history, and it has to do with the keepers of the great men's flames: "They want to believe that wives are menial and don't occupy the psychic space of their subject because they're jealous, I think. "They want to think that if they'd been around drinking in the Mermaid Tavern, Shakespeare would have found them very interesting and then they would have been best buddies. But Shakespeare was tough on sycophants. He would have disliked them to a man."

Poem: My Literary Friend by Henry Lawson

Once I wrote a little poem which I thought was very fine,
And I showed the printer's copy to a critic friend of mine,
First he praised the thing a little, then he found a little fault;
'The ideas are good,' he muttered, 'but the rhythm seems to halt.'

So I straighten'd up the rhythm where he marked it with his pen,
And I copied it and showed it to my clever friend again.
'You've improved the metre greatly, but the rhymes are bad,' he said,
As he read it slowly, scratching surplus wisdom from his head.

So I worked as he suggested (I believe in taking time),
And I burnt the 'midnight taper' while I straightened up the rhyme.
'It is better now,' he muttered, 'you go on and you'll succeed,
'It has got a ring about it -- the ideas are what you need.'

So I worked for hours upon it (I go on when I commence),
And I kept in view the rhythm and the jingle and the sense,
And I copied it and took it to my solemn friend once more --
It reminded him of something he had somewhere read before.

Now the people say I'd never put such horrors into print
If I wasn't too conceited to accept a friendly hint,
And my dearest friends are certain that I'd profit in the end
If I'd always show my copy to a literary friend.

First published in The Bulletin, 31 October 1891

The Literature of the Bush by Jack Hardgraft

The literary taste of Bushland is about as capricious as the whim of the young lady who ring-fences her nether limbs with a crinoline to-day and to-morrow tethers them with a hobble skirt. When I first encountered Bill Bushman he was a thinker and a reader of solid intellectual works (hot from the press preferred). The Conflicts of Science and Religion, Buckle's History of Civilization, Das Kapital, Looking Backward, Cæsar's Column and Progress and Poverty would generally be found in every Bush humpy. I have refused an offer of a pound for a two-bob copy of Max Nordau's Conventional Lies of Our Civilization at a time when a good horse saddle and bridle could be purchased for that sum. THE BULLETIN was B.B.'s Bible, and he would do a silent 20-mile ride weekly for that pink Abomination. The Lawson, "Banjo" and Dyson sprang up; and he became transformed from a moody thinker into a bellicose reciter of The Man From Snowy River, Trooper Campbell and so forth. Suddenly and without any visible signs of insanity, he developed a mania for the light, breezy, sensational literature of the Deadwood Dick persuasion, which he consumed for breakfast, dinner and tea. Under the Deadwood influence he hailed the passing wayfarer as "Pard," and talked wildly of "getting the drop" on the obese representative of Vested Interests collecting his unearned indictment of a Monday morning. The Deadwood Dick delirium paved the way for a still lower depth of mental prostration, and we find Bill eventually landed among the worshippers of Nat Tripe, alias Gould. Offer the Bushman of to-day his choice of, say, The Boy in the Green and The Cloister and the Hearth, and he will go bald-headed for the former. Gould is of Australian writers the best seller. "Steele Rudd" second. Dyson is the best bookweaver Australia has produced. One does Gould an honor in comparing him with Dyson. The latter's writings are more racy (not more horsey) than Gould's, and more spontaneously humorous than Rudd's. And he is considerably more intellectual and versatile than Davis and Gould rolled into one. Yet in the Bush one rarely meets a Dyson book. A good seller, he finds his audience in the towns and cities where the booklover abides and where frequently the ciculating library displays a catalogue of works best and new as well as choice and old. I admit that I have reluctantly come to the opinion that Bill Bushman of to-day is a literary degenerate. Half an hour's analysis of a Gould hero, and a five minute survey of the ARROW or the HAWKLET, and you can put the plumbob on his mental calibre straight away. He is a different personality altogether to the Bushman of yore. And, his blatant-voiced Unionism notwithstanding, would be if called on to-day put up the fight that the silent saturine Democrats of the nineties did on
behalf of a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. I don't think.

First published in The Bulletin, 12 June 1913

[Note: very definitely a pseudonym.]

Something in the Night

Dr Anita Heiss is an Author Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Project, along with Alexis Wright, David Malouf, Tara June Winch, Andy Griffiths and Geraldine Brooks. She attended the launch of the 2008 project and listened to a speech given by the project's patron, Therese Rein.

Chris Lawson, on the "Talking Squid" weblog, alerts us to the new issue of "Steam Engine Time" from Jan Stonson and Bruce Gillespie. In particular he focusses on an article in the issue by James Doig regarding the banning in Australia, in the 1940s, of Olaf Stapledon's novel Sirius. Seems there was something about a territory-marking scene that one censor took exception to. Given the recent "censorship" fracas over a series of photos you'd be forgiven for thinking that more such territory-marking was currently underway.

David Pullar, on the "PopMatters" weblog, explains the reasons behind the size of Australian publishing and the reasons why more Australian work is not read overseas. It's simple really: "Australia is not exotic enough for publishers to see escapist potential, but is too foreign to be an easy sell."

Adelaide sf writer Sean Williams is quoted in a "TimeOut London" article about film novelisations: "As Williams notes, 'People don't buy tie-ins to get the same story again; that's what DVD players are for. They want a whole new layer, and that is often a psychological or world-building one. And sometimes OTT is exactly what you want. How else is a writer to compete with a $200 million FX budget?'"

The "Mental_Floss" weblog lists Poor Fellow My Country by Xavier Herbert, at 850,000 words, as only the 10th longest novel ever.

Australian Books to Film #42 - Bush Christmas


Bush Christmas 1983
Directed by Henri Safran
Screenplay by Ted Roberts from the novel by Ralph Smart and Mary Cathcart Borer
Featuring John Ewart, John Howard, Mark Spain and Nicole Kidman.

Clive James Watch #6

Short notices

Peter Robins in "The Telegraph" calls Cultural Amnesia "a great lavatory book". Nice one.

Articles by James

James writes about people behaving badly - people who happen to be famous for one reason or another, in this case Snoop Dogg and Amy Winehouse. And on intervention, and media gaffes.

He also discusses his own website and what he intends to do with it.


CBC Radio interviews James about his latest work, Cultural Amnesia.


James will be appearing in a chat show at this year's Edinburgh Comedy festival - it's on the very last line.

Clive James has been presented a Special Award for Writing and Broadcasting at the annual Orwell Prize ceremony.

Andrew Motion, current Poet Laureate, is standing down next year, and Johann Hari, in "The Independent", would like to nominate James for the role. Trouble is, the job's remuneration includes a butt of sherry - which equates to about 700 bottles of the stuff - and James has been off the grog for years.

Nam Le

Every now and then, in the literary field, a writer seems to come from nowhere to be, suddenly, everywhere. The latest example of this is Nam Le, a writer born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, and currently writer-in-residence at Philips Exeter Academy in the US. His first collection of short stories, The Boat, is now on the shelves in Australia. Michael Williams interviewed the author for "The Age".

Vietnam-born, Melbourne-raised Le is warm, direct and frankly surprised at the enthusiasm of his reception. On the phone from New Hampshire, where he is taking part in a fellowship at the Phillips Exeter Academy, he reflects on the trajectory that led him to this point.

"I didn't really start reading and writing short stories in earnest until I came to America. I'd been working on a novel back home and had applied to the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program here with chunks of that novel."

The novel has now been abandoned -- in one interview he described it as "a 700-page spectacular, multi-dimensional failure" -- and I press him to find out what went wrong with it.

He laughs: "You name it mate . . . more than anything it was a structural problem. What happened was I sat down one day, drew up a 20-chapter outline and somehow never gave myself permission to deviate from it. Before long each chapter had swelled to 10,000 words and the whole thing just ended up being cumbersome and clumsy."

Michiko Kakutani reviewed the book for "The New York Times": "Whether it's the prospect of dying at sea or being shot by a drug kingpin or losing family members in a war, Nam Le's people are individuals trapped in the crosshairs of fate, forced to choose whether they will react like deer caught in the headlights, or whether they will find a way to confront or disarm the

In "The New York Sun", Benjamin Lytal found that "All sincere works of the imagination, these stories yet bear a self-conscious riposte to conventional wisdom. If ethnic writers are doomed to exploit their own heritage, the Vietnamese-Australian author seems to say, then let them exploit other, totally alien heritages as well." The "LA Times" also talked to Le.

If there's a common thread to your stories, it's the ocean. Judging from "Halflead Bay," you're a fisherman. I'm what they call a spiritual fisherman, who knows nothing about it, but if I had to fill out a questionnaire in heaven and list an occupation, I might list that. I'm enthralled and terrified and awe-struck by and in love with the ocean. One of my dreams has always been, and I'm still working on it, to get a berth on cargo ships that go to Antarctica. You go through these stretches of ocean that have waves from 50 to 100 feet or more high. It utterly overwhelms metaphor. And I think back to some of my heroes, Melville or Conrad, who actually were out there for months, on the stupendously high seas in dangerous conditions -- that romance really comes through in their words.

Geraldine Brooks Watch #6

Short Reviews of People of the Book

Paul on "The Journal of a Good Life" weblog: "This book gets really tedious; fast. There is just so much I (or you) want to know about the history of this Haggadah and book making."
Tracey O'Shaughnessy on the "The Republican-American" weblog: "What makes this book so riveting is the same revivification of history that Brooks managed in March and Year of Wonders. She conveys not only the historical atmosphere of 19th-century Vienna, but also creates deeply flawed, and yet heroic individuals."
On the "las risas" weblog: " I'm not sure why, but I just couldn't get very involved in this novel at all. There was a lot of publicity for it, and I saw it in basically every bookstore I passed until I bought a copy in Borders. It just couldn't keep my attention -- I finished several other books while in the middle of reading this one."
"The Daily Grin" weblog: "Librarians, of course, are one particular type of 'people of the book.' If you are one of the 'people of the book,' in whatever sense you take that to mean, then you will certainly enjoy this latest novel..."


Shona Crabtree on the "Religion Writer" website considers People of the Book to be "A sweeping narrative set in multiple locations with a myriad cast of characters". The interview follows.

Crabtree: What is your religious background and how did that inform your tackling of religion in the novel? Brooks: Such a long story! I was raised in an Irish Catholic tradition. My mother's family were pretty recent Irish immigrant stock, and our neighborhood was predominantly Catholic. So it was Catholicism of a very traditional, baroque kind with incense and lace mantillas and Children of Mary in blue cloaks. You know, the whole shmear. And then I kind of, as a teenager, fell out of love with the church over the role of women. At that point, I felt the whole thing was a big plot to deny women's autonomy and to keep people contented with a pretty unjust social system because they were going to get their rewards in the afterlife. So I just kind of washed my hands of the whole thing, cruised through about a decade and a half as a happy atheist. But then when I was about to get married to a Jew, the whole business of Jewish history that had so absorbed me all my life started to impose its imperative on me. That I didn't want to be the end of the line for his family's long heritage that had survived the sack by the Romans and the Inquisition and the pogroms of Russia and the shoah. So I converted to Judaism at that point more as an act of historical solidarity than perhaps religious belief. Crabtree: Once you converted, has that changed your spirituality in any way? Brooks: I'm a praying atheist if that makes any sense. (laughs)
Ellen Birkett Morris on Authorlink.
"I honestly can't say why I saw a novel in it when others before me hadn't," said Brooks, whose earlier works of historical fiction explored the effects of the bubonic plague on a small English village in the seventeenth century and the devastation and moral complexities of the Civil War as seen though the eyes of a fictional chaplain. "For me fact based fiction gives me a scaffolding for imagination to rest on. I let the story drive the research rather than the other way around. First I research to hear voices of the period I'm writing about, until one starts speaking clearly to me. The voice tells me who the character is, and that tells me what she'll do. That drives the plot, and then I know what I need to know...," said Brooks. She believes her background as a journalist aids her as a writer. "As a journalist you learn to write under almost any circumstances,and you don't have the luxury of waiting on the muse. Even though fiction is very different, it helps to be able to bang out a draft of something even on your worst days. Then at least you've got something to come back to and work on," noted Brooks.
Madeleine Coorey on France 24.
"I heard about the haggadah when it was missing and its fate was completely uncertain," she told AFP on the sidelines of Australia's premier literary festival in Adelaide last month.

"And it kind of, I guess, was banging around in my head and then when it was revealed it had been saved from the bombing by a Muslim librarian it kind of meshed with something else I had been thinking about for a long time which was the place of illuminators in the medieval period.

"The illuminator of the Sarajevo haggadah was my starting point of telling the story. And it all just went from there." But she says there's no temptation to combine the real-life accuracy of the journalist with the imagination of the novelist and package it as non-fiction. "I don't like faction," she said.


A reprint of the Sarajevo Haggadah, the subject of Brooks's latest novel, has been unveiled in the Bosnian's capital's national theatre. You can read an essay by Brooks about the historical background to her novel published in "The New Yorker". It deals with the "Chronicles about Muslim librarian Dervis Korkut's heroism in Sarajevo during World War II."
"A Novel Woman" reviews Year of Wonders: "Now, I love historical novels as a rule, but I wasn't sure I would be able to get into one subtitled 'A Novel of the Plague' however well written it was rumoured to be. Well, I started it early one Saturday morning, and spent the day in my nightgown, unwilling and unable to put the book down long enough to get dressed. That's how good it is. It's not a big book - I finished it that evening -- but it is like a Faberge egg, tiny and perfect. It is exquisitely written, and Brooks has a knack for language that draws you into the time and suspends you there."


The Sponge Divers by Charmian Clift and George Johnston, 1955
(Collins 1955 edition)

Review: A History of the Great War: A Novel by Peter McConnell

history_of_great_war.gif   Peter McConnell
Transit Lounge, 237 pp.
Source: review copy
Review by Perry Middlemiss

Without the addition of the clause "A Novel" to the title of this book you might be forgiven for thinking you were about to pick up a slim history of the first global conflict of the twentieth century. But it is a novel, and while it's aim is rather more modest than a full-blown history, it does attempt to examine Australia and its involvement in the Great War through the eyes of one woman.

The novel tells the life story of Ida Mitton (nee Hallam), who is born in 1877 and grows up near Bairnsdale in East Gippsland, Victoria. After her early promise as a singer is ruined by a bad throat infection, Ida takes a position in a local haberdashery shop, and it is here that she meets Ralph, considered one of the "catches" of the district. To the amazement of all who know her, Ida and Ralph get engaged to be married, but the outset of war in late 1914 puts their plans on hold. Ralph returns after two years badly damaged, both physically and mentally. The relationship between Ida and Ralph, the birth of their two children, and their struggle to maintain their existence on a small holding forms the basis of this story.

This is ambitious. As readers this is the sort of work we are looking for - something that stretches the author in terms of plot, theme or subject matter. And, for the most part, McConnell succeeds in showing us the life, loves and loses of one woman through the first half of the twentieth-century. Where it fails to reach the heights is in the area of reader involvement. And specifically the pacing. We don't seem to find moments of tension, anxiety, emotion or suspense to any great extent. We're not left on the edge of our seats wondering about the possible fates of the characters. It all seems somehow pre-ordained. Maybe this is partly due to the lack of dialogue in the book. There is no extended conversation anywhere to be seen, merely short sentences or phrases. This tends to keep the reader at a distance from the characters, minimising emotional involvement. It's hard to get to know a character if all you know comes from some omnipotent narrator.

There is a very good novel lurking within these pages, struggling to get out. And if that reads like damning with faint praise, it shouldn't. On the evidence provided by this novel, McConnell has the obvious ability to produce good work; he just needs to restrict his scope a tad and give the reader a sense of attachment.

Novel Extract: Boned by "Anonymous".

Penguin books have published a novel based on the sacking of Channel Nine Today show co-host Jessica Rowe. Eddie Maguire, CEO at the time, famously discussed "boning" or sacking Rowe, and it is this terminology that has resulted in Boned; the author "Anonymous". Television presenter Tracey Spicer takes a look at the book, and the Courier-Mail has now published an extract.

Hal Spacejock Novel Online

With the fourth book in the Hal Spacejock series being released today, Simon Haynes has made available the first novel as a free download. There aren't many sf comedies around so "If you enjoy TV shows like the Young Ones, Blackadder, Red Dwarf and Dr Who, or books by Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt or Jasper Fforde, then the bestselling Hal Spacejock series is for you."

Reviews of Australian Books #87

Peter Corris is impressed with Breaking the Bank: An Extraordinary Colonial Robbery by Caroline Baxter. He was expecting a dry social history of a bank robbery in Sydney in 1828, even if it was, in adjusted monetary terms, the largest such robbery in Australia's history, instead he found that "Baxter brings long-dead people to life so vividly, it's hard to see why novelists and television producers have overlooked the story. The ability to translate dry historical records into vibrant narrative is not given to everyone. Robert Hughes achieved it in The Fatal Shore. The bibliography shows Baxter to be an expert in genealogy and the use of colonial records. These skills and writerly flair have produced a fine book."

John Harwood's second novel, The Seance, is enjoyed by Andrew Taylor in "The Independent": "Harwood manipulates his characters'-- and readers'-- emotions. Even when he appears to provide a comfortably mundane explanation, he has a nasty habit of revealing the terrifying uncertainties that lurk in the shadows."

On "The Guardian" books blog, Sam Jordison has been re-examining past Booker winners, and finds he approaches Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda with some trepidation. He finds it flawed but loveable.

As part of an on-going project to promote books longlisted and shortlisted for the award, "The Orange Prize Project" weblog has posted a review of Sorry by Gail Jones: "The strength of the novel is the language, not just the Shakespeare but Jones' own language. The descriptions of the outback are original enough to catch the ear. For instance the descriptions of the aboriginal meeting places at river beds, the unlaboured descriptions of their language, their walkabouts and their extended family structures. Somehow she managed to take a bleak tale (you never for a minute think there will be a happy ending, not for mother or for daughter) and give it enough warmth and depth and
colour to keep you engaged."

Julia Lawrinson has written a novel about the Sydney Push, titled, aptly The Push. Michael Wilding finds that it is a young adult novel. Not that this is a problem: "The idea of a young adult novel about this antique world of sexual liberation and anarchist theory may seem bizarre, but the Push was itself a mass of contradictions. Unrelenting in its refusal to recognise any authority, it had a well-defined pecking order with its stars. Committed to critical thinking, to acting out the freedoms that philosophers had merely discussed, its gatherings at Sydney pubs such as the Royal George and the Criterion were fabled."

Short Notices

Faye on the "ALIA Retirees" weblog, looks at Johnno by David Malouf: "I found it a very satisfying and challenging read. It provides strong [insights] to relationships and personal development -- however I have some questions. The big one for me is -- is Johnno believable? And does the narrator pull off the relationship fixation?"

Maxine, on the "Petrona" weblog writes that "Dead Point is the third Jack Irish novel by Peter Temple. It is brilliant. Although I've very much enjoyed every book I've so far read by this author, in this one he joins the pantheon, in my opinion. Crime fiction does not come any better than this."

Motherhood and freedom seems to be the themes behind four novels compared by Rosemary Neill in "The Australian": Still Waters by Camilla Noli ("...portraying motherhood at its most deviant ..."); Disquiet by Julia Leigh (...exquisitely taut narrative..."): The Biographer by Virginia Duigan; and The Steele Diaries by Wendy James ("...examines the conflict between motherhood and freedom").

It's interesting to see how different countries accept Shaun Tan's The Arrival as their own. On the "Too Many Books" weblog, the statement is simple enough: "It is basically a story about America."

The "School Library Journal" reviews both volumes of D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo series: Foundling and Lamplighter.

Currently Reading

The Marvellous Boy

The Marvellous Boy by Peter Corris
The third Cliff Hardy novel from 1982. Corris writes in the classic Private Investigator tradition, mixing a complicated plot with memorable characters and solid locale descriptions. Terrific stuff.


A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Book Three in Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" saga. Many, many story-threads come to a head and then open back out again to maintain a stunning series.


Recently Read

Killing Floor

Killing Floor by Lee Child
The first Jack Reacher novel, in which he investigates the death of his brother and a major crime ring in a small country town. A little rough around the edges but you can see where the later novels sprung from.


The Eerie Silence

The Eerie Silence: Are we Alone in the Universe? by Paul Davies
Davies contemplates the subtitle, examining all the evidence and possibilities.


The Diggers Rest Hotel

The Diggers Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin
The 2011 Ned Kelly Award winner - the first Charlie Berlin novel. A Melbourne detective investigates a series of robberies and a murder in Albury-Wondonga in the 1950s.


A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
The second volume of Martin's monumental Song of Fire and Ice sequence. Not as good as the first volume and acts more as a stage-setting set of exercises, but you can tell it's building up to something big.


The Sense of an Ending

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


Hook's Mountain

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


The Troubled Man

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



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


Odd and the Frost Giants

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


Goldilocks Enigma

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


The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.jpg

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



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



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


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2008 is the previous archive.

July 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en