Margo Lanagan Watch #1

Reviews of Tender Morsels

Van Ikin, in "The Sydney Morning Herald": "Proclaimed as Lanagan's first novel 'for adults', Tender Morsels is far more than that: it is a towering work of imagination in which a supremely talented writer opens rich new frontiers."
"Eva's Book Addiction" weblog shows the cover of the US edition, with the note that the book is aimed at grades 9 and up. I assume that means 14+: "From its truly horrifying and brutal beginning to its satisfying but bittersweet end, this novel is mesmerizing. Language (characters speak in a country dialect that sounds both fantastical and utterly authentic) and tone remain consistent, whether the story is being told from Liga's damaged but sweet perspective, from the perspective of one of the Bears who ends up in Liga's heaven, or from those of any number of other carefully drawn characters. No one is perfect -- all have flaws, some much more than others -- but we can understand, if not sympathize with, each person. Often wrenching, at heart this is a truly tender story of healing, growing, and redemption."
Sarah Miller, on her "Reading, Writing, Musing..." weblog: "Once upon a time, the skeleton of this story was called Snow-White and Rose-Red. Like all fairy tales, it left much unexplained. Too much. Well, Margo Lanagan took those bones and added muscle and guts, bracing the loose joints of the plot with her characters' emotions, motivations, and histories. That's the secret of successful retellings: fleshing out the gaps that relied almost entirely on the readers' willful ignorance or suspension of belief, yet still leaving room for the existence of magic. And Lanagan knows how to handle magic delicately enough to make it believable: Tender Morsels revolves around magical doings, but never degrades enchantment to the level of coincidence." Miller concludes that this was "quite possibly THE best reading experience" she had had all year (her caps).
Lucas Klaus goes all zombie on us in his short note, stating that "Bottom line, I envy Margo Lanagan's brain and want to steal it."
The "Chicago Tribune" newspaper: "This dark, medieval fairy tale is as complex and brilliant as it is disturbing...The prose in this extraordinary fantasy is exquisite."


David Larsen in "The New Zealand Herald".

Lanagan has been writing all her life, ever since she and her older sisters began competing to get stories and poems published in the local Catholic weekly as children. She continued writing poetry through her teens and 20s. "But I really wanted to have an audience, a bigger audience than poetry was probably ever going to reach, and I also wanted to write more generously. I wanted to write big flowing things, rather than just fill up one page with very intense language and thought."
The particular thing she needed to clear her mind in order to write was, literally, "tender morsels'." She was working full time at this point, as a technical writer for a food packaging manufacturer, commuting 90 minutes every day. This, and bad memories of her previous crash and burn novel experience, made her decide she needed to break her intended novel down into bite-size pieces - into tender morsels. "I made a deal with myself that I would produce one short story every week, while I was commuting, and that every story would jump off from one central story. So that at the end, at the worst, I'd have a bunch of connected short stories, and at the most I might have something that could eventually turn into a novel."
I have linked previously to Jeff Vandermeer's interview for "Clarkesworld" magazine, and to Gavin J. Grant's interview on "Blog of a Bookslut", but it's worth repeating those links here.


Lanagan launched her book once at "Conflux", an sf convention held in Canberra in early October. Sarina Talip, of "The Canberra Times", spoke to her there: "I moved over into fantasy partly because my ideas were just getting odder and odder and I thought I would see what fantasy writing was like," the author said.

The other book launch was at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt, Sydney, and Judith Ridge was there with her camera.

On Stephanie Campisi's eponymous weblog, Lanagan lists her favourite bookshops.

Other works

Lanagan has a short story, "The Goosle", in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow. Richard Larson reviewed the book on the "Strange Horizons" website: "There are plenty of other brave choices by Ellen Datlow in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Most notable is the inclusion of Margo Lanagan's 'The Goosle', an update to the Hansel and Gretel story which has generated a fair amount of controversy..The subject here is child abuse, and the power dynamics of abuse in general, during an apparent sequel to what is already a retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story, one in which Hansel has escaped the witch's evil intentions but his sister (Kirtle, not Gretel, in Lanagan's telling) has, alas, been consumed...'The Goosle' is not an easy story, and Margo Lanagan is not a writer who makes easy choices. Aversions to certain pieces of fiction, however, should be based on the quality of the writing and the effectiveness of the storytelling rather than knee-jerk reactions to particularities of troublesome content.."

Larson points us to another review of the same book and the same story, by Dave Truesdale on the SF Site website, who sees the story in an entirely different light: "I really don't know where to begin in describing 'The Goosle' by Margo Lanagan, except to say it is a retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story. Lanagan turns this traditionally gruesome fairy tale into one of child porn (depending on your point of view) and repeated homosexual rape of a child (Hansel)...With several other stories in this collection aimed at juveniles or teenagers (the Ballingrud and the Cadigan), I find this story highly inappropriate." He criticises the story for its "shock value", using that word-set no less that six times in his short review. I think I got the impression he wasn't keen on it.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 25, 2008 3:10 PM.

Australian Bookcovers #138 - Mr Scobie's Riddle by Elizabeth Jolley was the previous entry in this blog.

2008 Warwick Prize for Writing is the next entry in this blog.

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