January 2010 Archives

Poem: Those Names by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

The shearers sat in the firelight, hearty and hale and strong,
After the hard day's shearing, passing the joke along:
The "ringer" that shore a hundred, as they never were shorn before,
And the novice who, toiling bravely, had tommy-hawked half a score,
The tarboy, the cook, and the slushy, the sweeper that swept the board,
The picker-up, and the penner, with the rest of the shearing horde.
There were men from the inland stations where the skies like a furnace glow,
And men from the Snowy River, the land of the frozen snow;
There were swarthy Queensland drovers who reckoned all land by miles,
And farmers' sons from the Murray, where many a vineyard smiles.
They started at telling stories when they wearied of cards and games,
And to give these stories a flavour they threw in some local names,
And a man from the bleak Monaro, away on the tableland,
He fixed his eyes on the ceiling, and he started to play his hand.

He told them of Adjintoothbong, where the pine-clad mountains freeze,
And the weight of the snow in summer breaks branches off the trees,
And, as he warmed to the business, he let them have it strong --
Nimitybelle, Conargo, Wheeo, Bongongolong;
He lingered over them fondly, because they recalled to mind
A thought of the old bush homestead, and the girl that he left behind.
Then the shearers all sat silent till a man in the corner rose;
Said he, "I've travelled a-plenty but never heard names like those.
Out in the western districts, out on the Castlereagh
Most of the names are easy -- short for a man to say.

"You've heard of Mungrybambone and the Gundabluey pine,
Quobbotha, Girilambone, and Terramungamine,
Quambone, Eunonyhareenyha, Wee Waa, and Buntijo --"
But the rest of the shearers stopped him:  "For the sake of your jaw, go slow,
If you reckon those names are short ones out where such names prevail,
Just try and remember some long ones before you begin the tale."
And the man from the western district, though never a word he said,
Just winked with his dexter eyelid, and then he retired to bed.

First published in The Bulletin, 20 September 1890

Reprint: Australia in London

It has been suggested that a shop should be established in London for the sale of books by Australian authors. The idea is opportune, and worthy of every support. The time has come for Australia to demonstrate to readers abroad that she has evolved a distinctive national literature. From the earliest days of settlement in this land there were some who sought to give written expression to their thoughts and experiences. At first these were necessarily of British birth, and for the most part they lacked the prescient imagination which might have foreseen the great Australia destined to be. The first of the native-born to achieve note was William Charles Wentworth. He won his garland in England by carrying off second prize for the Chancellor's poetical composition at Cambridge. His subject was "Australasia," and the future great constitution-framer, glimpsed with prophetic vision "A new Britannia in another world." The first absolutely Australian poet was Charles Harpur, born in Windsor, 1817. He possessed the divine instinct, but his work was unequal, and often trivial. He was the forerunner and exemplar of Henry Kendall, who "sat at his feet for long years," and in touching stanzas voiced his gratitude:

   Where Harpur lies the rainy streams,
      And wet hill-heads, with hollows weeping,
   Are swift with wind, and white with gleams,  
      And hoarse with sounds of storms unsleeping. . . .

   But now he sleeps, the tired bard,
      The deepest sleep; and lo, I proffer
   These tender leaves of my regard,

      With hands that falter as they offer.  

Kendall himself had a true lyrical gift, and was particularly adept in symbolising the varying aspects of nature in storm or shine. He had a strenuous and chequered life, suffering "the lot austere which waits upon the man of letters here," and this cast a gloom of depression and sadness over much of his output. Yet he bequeathed many sweet and graceful ballads, while his poem on the opening of the International Exhibition of 1870, with which he won the prize offered by the proprietors of this journal, and which first appeared in these columns, rises to epic grandeur. Largely contemporary with Kendall was Adam Lindsay Gordon. He remains the best known of that generation. For one who reads and treasures the alliterative lyrics of Kendall, several recite with enthusiasm Gordon's galloping "How We Beat the Favourite." To many Australians Gordon is the laureate. But he was of English birth and upbringing, and much of his work, capable and attractive though it be, is rather that of an Englishman domiciled, or exiled, in Australia, than of one who is Australian in every fibre. Marcus Clarke, too, made his mark with one im- mortal work, "For the Term of His Natural Life." Allowing for the exigencies of fiction, in which shadows are deepened, and incidents which in actuality were spread over several fields are concentrated into one, the book is of permanent value as giving a vivid and gripping picture of a condition of things happily long passed away. "Old Boomerang," also (the late J. R. Houlding) in the "Australian Adventures of Christopher Cockle," gave an amusing, yet withal graphic, description of the social life of the roaring "fifties," which should be saved from its threatened oblivion.

In more recent years a new and talented school has arisen which has frankly shaken off the British tradition, and looks at Australian subjects from purely Australian view-points. It shadows forth the "sun-lit plains extended," the rugged dividing ranges, the rushing rivers, the glorious exhilarating air of this vast land. Its favour- ite characters are not the lofty ones, but the strong brave pioneers who hewed their way through dense scrub, cleared the ground for smiling crops, drained swamps, sank shafts, won gold, fought fire and drought and flood, or drove great herds of cattle over a thousand miles and more of almost unexplored territory. A high place must be given to Henry Lawson, whose work is especially representative of this new generation. A. B. Paterson ("Banjo") is a worthy coadjutor, and has a lightness of touch which is complementary to the deeper tone discernible even in the humorous essays of Lawson. T. A. Browne ("Rolf Boldrewood") is likewise worthy of recognition. His novels, founded mainly on incidents of which he had personal knowledge, chronicle phases of Australian development which will never be exactly reproduced. "Robbery Under Arms" is already a classic. Arthur B. Davis ("Steele Rudd") has made thousands smile by his deft description of "Old Dad" and his numerous progeny and retinue, as they struggled to make a living on their successive selections, with interpolated experiences in city life. Both in prose and verse are many worthy of applause whose enumeration space forbids. Without prejudice to those of equal claims may be mentioned Victor Daly, E. J. Brady, the singer of the joys and sorrows of the hardy mariners of our seas, Brunton Stephens, whose "Convict Once" made him famous; George Essex Evans, of "The Secret Key," and the admirable publications in both prose and verse of Ethel Turner, Dorothea Mackellar, Ada Cambridge, Jennings Carmichael, Will Ogilvie, and John le Gay Brereton, not forgetting John Farrell, whose "How He Died" will find a place in every Australian anthology. Special commendation is due to C. J. Dennis, a master of every form of metrical technique, who has created those two impressive and unconventional characters, "The Sentimental Bloke" and "Ginger Mick." We Australians know these writers, who have laid the foundations of our literature; but to the people of Great Britain they are largely unknown. It is our duty to introduce them to readers abroad. That the British public is not insular in its preferences is shown by the remarkable vogue of American fiction, and there is every probability that a demand for Australian literature may also be created. The shop must be established. Whether it is to be at the cost of Government, or of private enterprise, whether alone or as a department of some well established business, has to be decided. But two things are indispensable: it must be staffed with intelligent Australian salesmen, and must carry full lines and advertising material. It will then develop into a meeting place for British and Australians alike, and many who know nothing of Australia will feel the lure of this great land, and through reading our books be inspired to come and dwell amongst us, and become Australians also.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 1920 (editorial)

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

With Thomas Spencer's poem, "How McDougal Topped the Score", we move back to comedy; a genre that we only encountered previously with James Brunton Stephens's "My Other Chinee Cook."  And although this poem is not the greatest, or funniest Australian poem, it does come as a bit of light relief.

Comic Australian poems are generally situational in nature, where one person, by dint of luck, good management or just plain rat cunning, gets the better of someone else.   Sometimes it is told from the point of view of the victim - Stephens again - and sometimes from the point of view of the victor.  Spencer's piece is an example of the latter.

The setting is a country cricket match between the two small townships of Piper's Flat and Molongo; the stakes a lunch paid for by the loser. The sub-text being bragging rights between the two towns. Piper's Flat finds themselves a man short and decide to draft in McDougal, an old farmer who has never played the game before.

Needless to say, as you can tell from the title, it is McDougal who saves the day, scoring the 50 runs required for victory with only one wicket to spare; and off one ball as well.  In this case it is rat cunning which wins the day.

When I was reading this poem I was reminded of "The Batting Wizard from the City", a short story by Dal Stivens which also features a cricket match between two small country towns, one of whom is short one player - drafting in a visitor whom no-one seems to know - while the other team has a Demon Bowler given to breaking stumps and bones with equal abandon. As with the poem here, the draftee saves the day at the last minute with a display of batting rarely seen, even in the first-class arena. Here class rather than cunning wins out.  Reading the two together strikes me as being a worthwhile exercise.

I find it peculiar to think that, given the nation's love of sport, such little poetry has been written about it.  This is one of the better ones.

Text: "How McDougal Topped the Score" by Thomas E. Spencer

Author bio: Australian Dictionary of Biography 

Publishing history:  First published in The Bulletin in March 1898, and subsequently reprinted in such anthologies as Favourite Australian Poems (1963), Complete Book of Australian Folklore (1976), The Penguin Book of Australian Humorous Verse (1984), The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse (1996), and the 1906 collection shown in its 1972 edition below.


Next five poems in the book:

"The Wail of the Waiter" by Marcus Clarke

"Where the Pelican Builds" by Mary Hannay Foott

"Catching the Coach" by Alfred T. Chandler ("Spinifex")

"Narcissus and Some Tadpoles" by Victor Daley

"Nine Miles from Gundagai" by Jack Moses

Note: this post forms part of my series on the poems contained in the anthology 100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant.  You can read the other posts in this series here.

2010 Australia Day Honours List

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As best I can tell, Peter Goldsworthy is the only literature recipient of an honour in the 2010 Australia Day Honours List; he was awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division.

On the other hand I found 6 cricketers, 3 from the wine industry, and 2 from the various football codes.  It continues a rather poor run for Australian literature in these awards.

Forthcoming Books for 2010

What follows is a list of Australian books to look forward to in 2010.  Fiction entries are marked with "(F)", and poetry with "(P)".  It is, of course, far from complete.


Keeping Faith by Robert Averill (F)
Child of the Twilight by Carmel Bird (F)
Our Father Who Wasn't There by David Carlin
Wyatt by Garry Disher (F)
Worst of Days by Karen Kissane
Where Have You Been? by Wendy James (F)
The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 7: Lord Sunday by Garth Nix (F)
The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter (F)
Walking the Tree by Kaaron Warren (F)


The Norseman's Song by Joel Deane (F)
Mr Cleansheets by Adrian Deans (F)
Gravel by Peter Goldsworthy (F- short stories)
Trouble: Evolution of a Radical by Kate Jennings
Below the Styx by Malcolm Meehan (F)
The Life of Akmal by Akmal Saleh
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Four edited by Jonathan Strahan (F)


Clowns at Midnight by Terry Dowling (F)
In-human by Anna Dusk (F)
The Seond-Last Woman in England by Maggie Joel (F)
Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor (F)
Taller When Prone by Les Murray (P)
Glissando - A Melodrama by David Musgrave (F)
Bleed For Me by Michael Robotham (F)


The Ambassador's Mission by Trudi Canavan (F)
Monster Blood Tattoo, Book Three: Factotum by D. M. Cornish (F)
Popeye Never Told You by Rodney Hall
Lights Out in Wonderland by D. B. C. Pierre (F)
Trust by Kate Veitch (F)
Unpeeling Oswald's Onion by David Walker


Insinuations by Jack Dann (F)
Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland (F)
Mistification by Kaaron Warren (F)


After America by John Birmingham (F)
Chaos Needs a Theory by Lily Bragge
My Blood's Country by Fiona Capp
Zendegi by Greg Egan (F)
Watch the World Burn by Leah Giarrantano (F)
The Old School by Pamela Hamilton (F)
Utopian Man by Lisa Lang (F)
Down by Pattaya Bay by Angela Savage (F)
King Brown Country by Russell Skelton
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusack (F)


Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer (F)
Traitor by Stepehn Daisley (F)
The Body in the Clouds by Ashley Hay (F)
The Dark Wet by Jess Huon (F)
The Life by Malcom Knox (F)
Night Street by Kristell Thornell (F)
Bereft by Chris Womersley (F)


Private Life, Public Grief by Mary Delahunty
Lessons in Letting Go by Corinne Grant
Dead Man's Chest by Kerry Greenwood (F)
an untitled novel by Toni Jordan (F)
The Tour by Denise Scott (F)
Line of Sight by David Whish-Wilson (F)


an untitled novel by Matthew Condon (F)
Spinner by Ron Elliott (F)
Hunger by Tom Keneally
Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy Sayer (F)


The Romantic by Kate Holden
Kinglake 350 by Adrian Hyland
Made in Australia by Roger McDonald (F)

Details of the books listed here were taken from "The Age" and "Locus".

Reprint: Victor Daley

The late Mr. Victor Daley has suffered many things at the hands of his professed admirers. The world has been told by now one and now another of his intímate friends how he dodged bailiffs here and absorbed much liquid refreshment there. Well, the world is not much interested in such revelations, true or false. It declines to associate pootry with beer, and it has a regard for the poet Daley, not for the companion of thirsty souls. We should be glad to hear something more solid about Victor Daley than is to be found in the enthusiastic vapourings of his boon companions, actual or alleged - boon companions who in their thoughtlessness have done harm to the man's memory. Indeed, Daley might complain of those who had done his fame much wrong, drowned his credit in a shallow cup, and sold his reputation for a song. This something may be found in "Victor Daley: A Biographical and Critical Notice," by A. G. Stephens (The "Bulletin" Newspaper Co.). There is no guidance herein as to the place which Victor Daley will or should occupy in the world of poets. Indeed, the time has not come when the place of Victor Daley may be apportioned amongst the minor bards who scintillate in Australia to the applause of their fellows. Certainly it will be amongst the minor bards, even though his latest biographer declares that his verses represent what he calls "a substantial poetical performance." "In essential poetry," continues Mr. Stephens, "in Australian character, and in some of the components of technical quality he has been surpassed often; yet no other in this country has written so agreeably during so long a period."

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March 1906

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Australian Bookcovers #195 - Grace by Robert Drewe


Grace by Robert Drewe, 2005
Cover and text design by Tony Palmer
Cover photography by Michele Oka Doner & Keith Goldstein and Pat O'Hara & Christoph Wilhelm
Viking edition 2005

2009 Aurealis Award Winners

The 2009 Aurealis Award winners were announced in Brisbane over the weekend.  These jury-judged awards were set up to honour the best Australian sf, fantasy, horror and young adult works.  The winners for 2009 were:

Best Science Fiction Novel

Andrew McGahan, Wonders of a Godless World, Allen & Unwin

Best Science Fiction Short Story
Peter M. Ball, 'Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens', Apex Magazine May 2009

Best Fantasy Novel
Trudi Canavan, Magician's Apprentice, Orbit

Best Fantasy Short Story (joint winners)
Christopher Green, 'Father's Kill', Beneath Ceaseless Skies #24
Ian McHugh, 'Once a Month, On a Sunday', Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #40, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative Ltd

Best Horror Novel
Honey Brown, Red Queen, Penguin Australia

Best Horror Short Story (joint winners)
Paul Haines, 'Wives', X6, Coeur de Lion Publishing
Paul Haines, 'Slice of Life - A Spot of Liver', Slice of Life, The Mayne Press

Best Anthology
Jonathan Strahan (editor), Eclipse 3, Night Shade Books

Best Collection
Greg Egan, Oceanic, Gollancz

Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel

Nathan Jurevicius, Scarygirl, Allen & Unwin

Best Young Adult Novel
Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan Trilogy: Book One, Penguin

Best Young Adult Short Story
Cat Sparks, 'Seventeen', Masques, CSFG

Best Children's Novel
Gabrielle Wang, A Ghost in My Suitcase, Puffin Books

Best Children's Illustrated Work/Picture Book
Pamela Freeman (author), Kim Gamble (illustrator), Victor's Challenge, Walker Books Australia

In addition, the following awards were also announced at the ceremony:

The Peter McNamara Convenors' Award for Excellence went to Melbourne bookseller Justin Ackroyd

The Kris Hembury Encouragement Award for Emerging Artists went to Kathleen Jennings.

You can read the full shortlisted works here.

Poem: Above Crow's Nest (Sydney) by Henry Lawson

A blanket low and leaden,
   Though rent across the west,
Whose darkness seems to deaden
   The brightest and the best;
A sunset white and staring
   On cloud-wrecks far away --
And haggard house-walls glaring
   A farewell to the day.

A light on tower and steeple,
   Where sun no longer shines --
My people, Oh my people!
   Rise up and read the signs!
Low looms the nearer high-line
   (No sign of star or moon),
The horseman on the skyline
   Rode hard this afternoon!

(Is he -- and who shall know it? --
   The spectre of a scout?
The spirit of a poet,
   Whose truths were met with doubt?
Who sought and who succeeded
   In marking danger's track --
Whose warnings were unheeded
   Till all the sky was black?)

It is a shameful story
   For our young, generous home  --
Without the rise and glory
   We'd go as Greece and Rome.
Without the sacrifices
   That make a nation's name,
The elder nation's vices
   And luxuries we claim.

Grown vain without a conquest,
   And sure without a fort,
And maddened in the one quest
   For pleasure or for sport.
Self-blinded to our starkness
   We'd fling the time away
To fight, half-armed, in darkness
   Who should be armed to-day.

This song is for the city,
   The city in its pride --
The coming time shall pity
   And shield the countryside.
Shall we live in the present
   Till fearful war-clouds loom,
And till the sullen peasant
   Shall leave us to our doom?

Cloud-fortresses titanic
   Along the western sky --
The tired, bowed mechanic
   And pallid clerk flit by.
Lit by a light unhealthy --
   The ghastly after-glare--
The veiled and goggled wealthy
   Drive fast -- they know not where.

Night's sullen spirit rouses,
   The darkening gables lour
From ugly four-roomed houses
   Verandah'd windows glower;
The last long day-stare dies on
   The scrub-ridged western side,
And round the near horizon
   The spectral horsemen ride.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 October 1906

Reprint: Early Australian Women Writers by E. B. H.

At a time when so many new novels of Australian life are appearing, those of the older generation should not be forgotten. For some of them, apart from their intrinsic worth, are of real historic interest.  

South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland all have a woman novelist whose experiences date from the pioneering days of the colony -- Catherine Helen Spence, of Adelaide; Ada Cambridge, of Victoria; and Mrs. Campbell Praed, of Queensland. 

Miss C. H. Spence's first novel was published in 1856, and must have been one of the earliest Australian novels written. Her fame has been that of a political and social reformer, and few people would have suspected her of writing two-volume novels. It was her ambition, however, when young, to write a great book. In 1851 she sent her first attempt, "Clara Morison," to Smith, Elder, and Co., of London; and she records with evident pride that Mr. Williams, the reader of Smith, Elder, and Co., who had discovered Charlotte Bronte, read the book, and refused to publish it for the same reason that he had given Charlotte Bronte, that "she could write a better." However, in 1856 "Clara Morison" was published in London, and was pronounced by critics to be the best novel yet written In Australia - "a book deserving careful criticism and much praise."

In this book Miss Spence has drawn upon her own experiences in her description of the voyage to Adelaide and life in that city after she arrived there in 1839. There took place in 1851 an unprecedented rush of men to the Victorian goldfields, and she has attempted to describe in "Clara Morison" her experience of a depopulated province, when "there was no king in Israel, and every woman did what was right in her own sight." Clara Morison herself was not a new woman, however, and she was only too glad to marry one of the few men left behind - an attractive young English squatter.

Her second novel, "Tender and True," was accepted by Mr. Williams. Her third novel, "Mr. Hogarth's Will," made such an impression upon Mr. Edward Wilson, the well-known philanthropist, that it led him to alter his will. The story is that of a rich uncle who cruelly disinherited his two nieces. They were in consequence forced to earn their own living. Miss Spence intended to show that the uncle had done very wrong, but Mr. Wilson thought otherwise. He left the bulk of his fortune to Melbourne charities, which benefit substantially every year.

In her last novel, Miss Spence thought that she had at last achieved her ambition in creating "characters that stood out distinct and real." But she could find no publisher for it. She brought it to Sydney in 1900, but was assured "that the only novels worth publishing in Australia were sporting or political ones!"

Mrs. Campbell Praed, of the four novelists mentioned here, is the only genuine Australian. She was born in Queensland, where her father was a squatter and a member of Parliament, so that she had ample opportunity for studying the life she describes so well in her novels. Of these she has written at least twenty. It is said that the interest these books have aroused in England has had an important influence in gaining a bearing for Australian writers. "Longleat of Kooralbyn," her first novel, originally published in 1881 as "Policy and Passion," combines most of the author's strong points, which are "great dramatic force, interest of narrative, and a marked intensity in the sombre passages." Longleat is a squatter and politician in Queensland, a rugged, self-made man, coarse in his manners, but possessing a tender heart, which he cannot for all his desire show to his only daughter. She becomes estranged from him, chiefly owing to the superior upbringing and education which she has acquired in the large cities of the south. The story shows how the lack of love works upon Longleat's spirit, till at last it leads to tragedy for himself and others.

Mrs. Praed's descriptions of Australian scenery are very realistic. She expresses the feeling of fear with which the bush sometimes grips us, and also the feeling of beauty and peace. From her books we can picture the life of the pioneers in Queensland, their struggle to gain a hold upon the land, their isolation and the lack of congenial society in those far back regions. Her stories, though not always pleasant reading, contain characters that are life-like and vivid creations. In "Black and White," and "My Australian Girlhood," Mrs. Praed has given some account of her own life on her father's stations in Queensland; of the neighbouring families, from whom some of her characters seem to be drawn; and the blacks, bushrangers, and gentlemen sundowners with whom she came in contact.

If Mrs. Praed is the Australian novelist best known in England, Ada Cambridge is the best known in Australia. Many think she is entitled to the first place among Australian women novelists, by reason of the quality of her work and the varied distinctiveness of her stories.

"The Three Miss Kings" is perhaps her most populur novel - a pleasant story of every-day life in Melbourne in the early eighties.

Ada Cambridge's "delicate insight into the ways of girlhood and the loving tenderness with which they are presented," makes the novel popular, especially with women.   It is valuable, too, in that it keeps for us the atmosphere of early days. Ada Cambridge has written at least 12 novels, all dealing with Australian life. Her "Thirty Years in Australia" gives an account of her sojourn in Victoria from the time of her arrival in this country, a few months after her marriage, till the present day. Unlike many Englishwomen, she seems to have been able to adapt herself to the new ways and conditions of life in this country without difficulty, learning eventually to love and appreciate it.

There was one other woman who wrote an Australian novel about the year 1880. This was Madame Couvreur, or "Tasma," a journalist, who lived In Victoria for some time, and returned to England in 1879. "Uncle Piper of Piper's Hill" is perhaps the best novel yet written on Australia. One critic, writing of this book, says: "Instead of blinding us with local colouring, Tasma enables us to inhale the very atmosphere of the place, and thus give us the most perfect idea of the things, people, and surroundings she describes." The story is a simple one of a rough old Englishman, who has made his fortune in Australia, and is excessively proud of the fact. So anxious is he to show his manifold possessions to his only sister, whom he left a nursery governess in England, that he invites her and her whole family, including a well-born but idle husband, to pay him a visit. They arrive, and much appreciate the luxury and gaiety with which Uncle Piper surrounds them. The story describes the intermingling of the two families for good or ill.

There is a specially delightful picture of a little girl, who exerts a beneficent influence, upon all around her, and through whose agency the story ends up happily. Judging by the well-worn covers of the library copy of this book it is very popular, though there are people well read In English and American novels who have never even heard of it.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 1914

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Note: I have no idea who "E.B.H." might be.

Australian Writers on Postage Stamps

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Australia Post is set to honour six Australian authors as living legends with a new stamp release scheduled for today.  Peter Carey, Bryce Courtenay, Tom Keneally, David Malouf, Colleen McCullough and Tim Winton will each appear in two images on 55c stamps - one from the present and one from the past.

This release follows the 2009 Living Legends postage stamp release that honoured legends of the screen: Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Geoffrey Rush.

You can get further details of the various products in the release here.

Love Machine: Sex Sells. Can Love? by Clinton Caward

Book trailers are fast becoming the must-have advertising device for books in this country, if they aren't already.

The lastest I've come across is the trailer for Love Machine: Sex Sells. Can Love?, the debut novel by Clinton Caward.

Sir, - Mr. W. A. Brennan, in his article which appeared in the Magazine section of "The Argus" last Saturday on "Ashtaroth," a dramatic lyric by A. L. Gordon, a copy of which was presented to the Yorick Club by the author, sums up his analysis of it by saying the the work as a whole is undoubtedly unattractive, but that it is worth studying for the gems that are found in it. He claims that "there is probably no more interesting or graphic writing than that which is contained in the moonlight elopement of Harold and Agatha from the pursuit of Hugo as related by Agatha to the Mother Superior in the convent many years later."

Mr. Brennan then gives as an evidence of Agatha's capricious mind the closing lines of her narrative:

   See Harold the Dane, thou sayest is dead,
      Yet I weep not bitterly,
   As I fled with the Dane, so I might have fled,
      With Hugo of Normandy.

Mr. Brennan is rather harsh to Agatha, who admits in the following lines that she is not of the stuff of which heroines are made:

   I pulled the flower and shrunk from the thorn,
   Sought the Sunshine and fled from the mist,
   My sister was born to face hardship with scorn;
   I was born to be fondled and kiss'd.

"Ashtaroth" is not unattactive to lovers of Gordon, for the theme is full of action and romance, and Thora's Song and several of the other poems are among the most beautiful and musical that the poet wrote. The main faults in the lyric are, I think, its occasionally faulty versification rather than its matter.

Mr. Brennan opens up attractive ground for discussion when he says, "It would be interesting to learn where Gordon obtained his inspiration for the poem - obviously it was obtained from literature and not from personal experience." May I suggest in reply to this statement that the inspiration carne from both of these sources - first from Gordon's own life, and secondly, though this will probably surprise many of your readers, from Longfellow's "Golden Legend," the plot and construction of this well-known poem being very like that of "Ashtaroth."  

Yours, &c.,



First published in The Argus, 11 September 1937

Note: this letter was written in response to an article titled "A Gordon Momento" written by W.A. Breenan which I published here last week.

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Project Gutenberg Australia has the full set of Gordon poems.

Peter Temple Interviews

Peter Temple's novel Truth was published in October 2009 and has been receiving its fair share of attention.

I missed an interview with the author published in "The Australian" in October. Temple was interviewed by Peter Craven:

Truth comes to take in corruption in high places, intrigue in the police force, marital infidelity and family dysfunction, as well as the encircling drama of Victorian bushfires. So was he at work on Truth as towns outside Melbourne were burning down? "Oh, yes. I was writing this book until two months ago, but I knew long before the fires that it had to have the fires in it, that it was book set in high and dangerous summer."

What's the process of writing like for him? He looks at me as though this is an old story. "I wouldn't say I was fluent. There are days when it comes easily, after weeks of muddling. But the days that come easily aren't necessarily the better days in terms of the result. I often get bogged down and, when I do, I might jump three chapters ahead. In the end it's like repairing a tapestry.

"It's when there's the sense of urgency that I start to enjoy it. That's when it begins to take hold of you and you get the sense of the right words for stages and for the patterns that have formed." He is attracted to the drama of the crime story. "I like having a plot, I like characters with a reason to get up in the morning."

Temple couldn't make it to the UK for the recent launch of his novel there, but Bob Cornwell of TW Books was able to interview him by email:

Bob Cornwell: When we last met, after winning the 2007 CWA Gold Dagger for The Broken Shore, you were already talking about that book as the first part of a possible trilogy. How did you arrive at that idea?

Peter Temple: It came to me while I was finishing The Broken Shore. Stephen Villani had a bit part and I liked him as a character: knowing, sardonic, much older in his manner than his contemporary Joe Cashin. I thought he might deserve his own book and I began thinking about his life and his city, and that became Truth. But I don't know about a third instalment. I need to do something else. Get out more.

The book has been long in the writing. More relaxed deadlines this time around? Did the (I believe) unprecedented award from the Australia Council for the Arts in any way enable you to take what you have called "a longer swing at it"?
I was able to take my time with Truth and for that I'm indebted to the Australia Council's wonderful policy of giving money to all kinds of writers, even those badged as crime writers. Before this taxable gift, I've always written under the pressure of bills. Of course it is not in the interests of publishers for writers to escape the lash of need, but mine is patient - not happy but patient.

You normally work from a "feeling" about what you want to do. What was that feeling this time?
Melbourne is a city changing faster than many of its inhabitants like. I wanted to write something that could capture its present and its recent history through the hard eyes of a cop twenty-five years in the job. I did my usual fiddling around, trying to find a score for the story, trying to find a voice for Stephen Villani, trying to avoid exposition as far as possible, losing faith, and giving up on the enterprise from time to time.

Australian Bookcovers #194 - Our Sunshine by Robert Drewe


Our Sunshine by Robert Drewe, 1991
Cover illustration by Gregory Bridges
Picador edition 1991

Poem: Archibald's Monument by Henry Lawson

Doubtless the Old Chief chats to-night
With writers and artist who passed from sight
To a sanctum lit by as clear a light
   As the light of that Other Day;
With lovable humbugs, all too fond
Of the shorter cut to the land beyond --
With Marcus Clarke and "The Vagabond",
   With Daley and Harold Grey,
   "The Dipso" and Harold Grey.

No tear is needed, nor funeral frown.
Empty your glasses in bush and town
To a polished glass on th ebar turned down
   And be, as we are, content.
The songs we sang to a land unsung
As yet, and taught by his guiding tongue,
The lines we wrote when our hearts were young,
   Are Archibald's Monument.

First published in The Bulletin, 18 September 1919

Note: you can read other entries about J.F. Archibald here.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Robert Ingpen

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Alice_in_Wonderland.jpg   Walker Books have published a new edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, with illustrations by Australia's Robert Ingpen. Carroll is rather well known to the bulk of readers but Ingpen might need a bit of an introduction.  According to the publisher's webpage:

Robert Ingpen, born in 1936, is one of Australia's most successful illustrators and has written and/or illustrated more than 100 published books. He attended Geelong College to 1954 and received a Diploma of Graphic Art from RMIT. In 1958, Robert was appointed by the CSIRO as an artist to interpret and communicate the results of scientific research. From 1968, Robert worked as a freelance designer, illustrator and author. Robert also became the only Australian to be awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Medal for illustration. Presently, Roberts's work is perhaps best known for his illustrations in the centenary editions of "Peter Pan and Wendy" and "The Wind in the Willows".

Cory Doctorow, on the weblog "BoingBoing", was very impressed with the edition and has reproduced several internal illustrations.

Reprint: A Gordon Memento by W. A. Brennan

In the library of the Yorick club Melbourne there is a slender dark green volume entitled



Dramatic Lyric

On the fly-leaf there is written, no doubt in the hand of Adam Lindsay Gordon, the inscription "Presented to Yorick Club, with author's compliments." Anonymity is observed also in the printed line "By the author of Sea Spray and Smoke Drift."

The volume was published in 1867 with the imprint Melbourne: Clarson Massina and Co., printers and publishers; Sydney: Gibbs, Shallard and Co. 1867.

The Yorick Club was founded in 1868 in response to an invitation by Marcus Clarke to men interested in literature and art. Gordon' s death took place in 1870 so that the presentation of the volume was made sometime in the two years from 1868 to 1870. Gordon was a foundation member of the club and was known to some of the members who have died within recent years.

Apparently Gordon believed that he would be better known as the author of "Sea Spray and Smoke Drift" than as Adam Lindsay Gordon. Apart from its rarity, the volume of "Ashtaroth" is interesting in several ways, and is worth examination by students of Gordon chronology.

Most of us in our day drank of the volume to which Marcus Clarke wrote his memorable, if not generally acceptable, introduction, which included the reference to the "weird melancholy" of the Australian bush.

Nearly all commentators on Gordon's poems have spoken apologetically and even disparagingly of "Ashtaroth."   The memorial volume issued a few years ago does not include it, although "Thora's Song" is published as a separate poem.

The publication by the author in 1887 suggests that he had an artist's confidence in his own work. It was, moreover, a sustained effort. Gordon could not have "dashed it off" as poets are   believed to dash off their work in fine frenzy. It was at least a year after publication that he presented the copy to the Yorick Club. Such an interval would give ample time for the "sickness" which an author sometimes feels even for his best work.

The work as a whole is undoubtedly unattractive, but not more so than many of those written by authors of greater fame which have been given permanence in their collected poems. It is worth study, however, for the gems that are found in it. There is probably no more interesting or graphic writing than that which is contained in the moonlight elopement of Harold and Agatha from the pursuit of Hugo, as related by Agatha to the Mother Superior in the convent many years later. What heroine of modern picture show romance moreover could more accurately reflect the capricious mind than the closing lines of the narrative by Agatha -

   See Harold the Dane thou sayest is dead,
   Yet I weep not bitterly
   As I fled with the Dane, so I might have fled
   With Hugo of Normandy.

It would be interesting to learn where Gordon obtained his inspiration for the poem. Obviously it was from literature and not from personal experience, nor is it likely that it was purely fanciful.

The characters are not such that he would have met either in his English or other experiences. Perhaps those who find satisfaction in attributing Gordon's best work to the influence of other minds may gain some fresh light from this neglected poem. Those who know Greek literature ever so slightly through the translations of Sir Gilbert Murray and others, will possibly be led to believe that Browning, Swinburne, and Gordon drew from the same spring. Theirs was an age of classicism and its echoes have a family resemblance.

First published in The Argus, 4 September 1937

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Clive James Watch #15

Reviews of The Blaze of Obscurity: The TV Years

Roland White in "The Sunday Times": "Most television memoirs instinctively take on a chat-show format. Celebrities, dear friends all, are wheeled on to tell their stock anecdotes. The Blaze of Obscurity is more thoughtful about the mechanics and indeed the purpose of television, but James is not above a bit of celebrity work if the context requires it. He spotted Nigella Lawson's potential when everybody else thought she was too posh. He interviewed Leonard Bernstein while the conductor's hand was looking for a route into James's trousers, and he enjoyed several lunches with the Princess of Wales. He is entranced by Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, found Ronald Reagan to be a showbiz trouper, and once changed the set of his show because Pavarotti was too bulky to tackle stairs...As James cannot find it within himself to write a dull paragraph, his book is an entertaining read. But there's no hiding the fact that the material on showbusiness and television has been well worked elsewhere."

Robert Yates in "The Guardian": "As always with James, the temptation is to play the man and not the ball - so willing is he to present a large, vivid target. Someone less inclined to provoke ridicule might not have written, en passant: 'I had been so caught up with learning to read Japanese' or: 'When waiting in the car with my driver, I would read to him from Simenon or Maupassant.' But what's a little ridicule next to James's fabulous appetites, next to his desire to acquire fresh knowledge and his delight in showing off? Besides, what a treat for the driver to have a little Maupassant in his ear while idling...Mostly, he relishes the experience - he has never lacked the conviction, he writes, that he was the 'natural centre of attention'. And he takes great pleasure in being invited to handsome places where there are beautiful women to entertain. Again, ridicule if you will, but he gets the self-tease in first."

Roger Lewis in "The Daily Mail": "Has there ever been a more vivid example of cultural schizophrenia than Clive James? On the one hand, he is mad keen to tell us about his highbrow achievements and credentials...Pitching hard for Elder Statesman in the Republic of Letters status, our author brags that in the grand salons of London, 'at the same table as David Hockney, Philip Roth, Harold Pinter and Sir Isaiah Berlin, it was flattering to be treated like one of the boys'....Let's hope they didn't think the portly James was the wine waiter. But that's what being a VIP celebrity artist is all about, isn't it? Your contacts. 'I made a conscious effort to remember it all,' says James, as if he was Marcel Proust...Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten everything when it came to writing this book. He doesn't even let us know his own wife's name. Is this discretion, or a simple inability to focus on anything outside his own immediate frame of Humpty Dumpty big-head reference."


"Head and Shoulders Above the Rest" - The achievements of some people stand so tall, a statue in their honour can never match up.

"When Doing Nothing is an Option" - Living in a democracy can be trying, until you think of the alternatives.

"Climate Change - A Story Too Often told the Same Way" - Having one-sided discussions about climate change helps no-one.

"Automate at Your Peril" - Computerised systems may be useful but they can also get things very wrong.

"One Lesson to Teach the Young" - The young are the future, but they must still be reminded of the lessons of the past.


"The Times" published an extract from James's latest volume of his autobiography, The Blaze of Obscurity.


James was interviewed by Andrew Denton for the latter's ABC TV "Elders" program.  You can watch the video of that interview, and read the transcript, here.

James Campbell in "The Guardian".

YouTube now has available an interview with Billy Connolly by Clive James.  It comes in two parts.


James attended the London launch of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature and had a few things to say about the contents, according to James Delingpole of "The Telegraph".

James's poetry collection, Angels of Elsinore, was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award.

James and the novelist Martin Amis appeared on a Manchester University panel discussion regarding the subject of ageing.  You can download a podcast of that discussion here.

Reprint: Mr. Moncure Conway and the Late Mr. Marcus Clarke


Sir, - As Mr. Moncure Conway has unwittingly done an injustice to the memory of the late Marcus Clarke, and one calculated to cause pain to his relatives and friends in the colonies, may I ask the favour of your publishing the enclosed letter which he has addressed to the Glasgow Herald, and forwarded to me by the last mail in the hope of its obtaining equal publicity here with the error to which he gave currency.-Yours, &c.,

HENRY G. TURNER. St. Kilda, May 12.

(To the Editor of the Glasgow Herald)

Sir, - I have just learned with dismay that in one of my letters to the Glasgow Herald, written mainly at sea, I have done grievous wrong to the good name of the ablest Australian author - the late Marcus Clarke. A friend of his now in London, who followed him to the grave, assures me that I have been grossly misled in stating that he took to gambling and killed himself. Marcus Clarke was never in any sense of the word a gambler, nor did he commit suicide. I can only conclude that in the story told me, or my understanding of it, the author in question was confused with another eminent Australian writer, who was his friend. The similarity, as I supposed it, of the two tragedies appeared phenomenal enough to be mentioned. It proves to be a delusion. Whatever may have been the origin of this blunder, there was certainly no evil intent behind it. For myself, I have never felt anything but grateful admiration for the author of that powerful romance, "His Natural Life." I regret that no redress of the wrong unwittingly done to his memory seems open to me, beyond an effort to overtake the story with this unreserved retractation of it as absolutely baseless, and expression of my sorrow at the pain it must have caused the family and fnends of the beloved and brilliant Australian - I am, &c,


Inglewood, Bedford-park, Turnham-green.

First published in The Argus, 14 May 1884

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Moncure D. Conway has his own Wikipedia page, as does Marcus Clarke.

Australian Bookcovers #193 - Flamingo Gate by Garry Disher


Flamingo Gate by Garry Disher, 1991
Cover painting: Hellgate - Junction of Gertrude and Brunswick Streets by James Davis
Imprint edition 1991

Charlotte Wood Interview

brothers_sisters.jpg    At the end of 2009 Charlotte Wood (best known as the author of such novels as The Submerged Cathedral and The Children) released an anthology of stories titled Brothers and Sisters. She spoke to Jo Case of the "Readings.com" website:
The stories in Brothers and Sisters were all specially written for this anthology. What made you decide to commission new works rather than anthologise existing stories?

It was initially my publisher's idea - Jane Palfreyman's - to commission entirely new stories, and as soon as she said it, the whole project became much more exciting. Somehow, the writers agreeing to write to a theme injected the anthology with an element of risk, and therefore of energy, that I don't think it would have had otherwise. There was always the danger that having agreed, one might find one had nothing to say, so I suspect some of us had to work really hard, pushing our work in new directions in order to discover a way into the topic. I know some of the writers (including me) found the whole process much more confronting than they'd expected.

I think the commissioning of new works also had the unexpected side effect of giving the anthology a cohesion it might not otherwise have had. Obviously an editor's personal literary tastes come into play in choosing contributors like this (rather than existing work choosing us, as it were, simply by relating to the topic), so I think some common ground between the writers - a precision with language, a reflectiveness, a kind of smokiness - lies beneath the collection as a whole.

Poem: Written Out by Henry Lawson


Sing the song of the reckless, who care not what they do;
Sing the song of a sinner and the song of a writer, too --
Down in a pub in the alleys, in a dark and dirty hole,
With every soul a drunkard and the boss with never a soul.

Uncollared, unkempt, unshaven, sat the writer whose fame was fair,
And the girls of the streets were round him, and the bullies and bludgers there;
He was one of themselves and they told him the things that they had to tell --
He was studying human nature with his brothers and sisters in hell.

He was neither poor nor lonely, for a place in the world he'd won,
And up in the heights of the city he'd a thousand friends or none;
But he knew that his chums could wait awhile, that he'd reckon with foes at last,
For he lived far into a future that he knew because of the past.

They remembered the man he had been, they remembered the songs he wrote,
And some of them came to pity and some of them came to gloat:
Some of them shouted exulting -- some whispered with bated breath
That down in a den in the alleys he was drinking himself to death.

Thus said the voice of the hypocrites -- and the true hearts sighed with pain,
'Oh! he never will write as he used to write! He never will write again;'
A poet had written his epitaph in numbers of sad regret,
And the passing-notice was pigeon-holed, and the last review was set.

But the strength was in him to rise again to a greater height, he knew,
For the sake of the friends who were true to him and the work that he had to do;
He was sounding the depths that he had to know, he was gathering truths for his craft,
And he heard the chatter of little men -- and he turned to his beer and laughed.

First published in When I Was King and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1905

Alexandra Adornetto Book Deal

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"Beattie's Book Blog", out of New Zealand, is reporting that young Melbourne author Alexandra Adornetto has landed a six-figure publishing deal in the US for a YA trilogy.

The trilogy centres around three mysterious teens who enrol in a local high school. Nobody knows the truth: that they are angels on a mission to save a world on the brink of destruction. When Bethany, the youngest angel, falls for her classmate Xavier, she faces a frightening decision; will she defy the laws of Heaven by loving him?
You might remember that Adornetto made headlines a few years back when she signed a publishing deal with HarperCollins in Australia when she was only 13.

Reprint: As Her Poets See Australia by H.W. Malloch


It is to our poets and writers we look largely to create and stimulate a national sentiment. Most of us are indifferently patriotic when times are normal, and when crises arise the poet or the writer with vision and imagination can fan the flame of patriotism to white heat. That, however, is only spasmodic, and frequently becomes merely a passing phase.

Those writers who, when times are tranquil, can pen words which inspire a people and deepen its sense of nationhood, are the ones who attain enduring fame and find a lasting place in the literature of their native land.

The lure of the homeland overseas has influenced many of our Australian poets to the exclusion of work aimed at stimulating an Australian national spirit. There are some, however, who have not. The attempt probably began with William Charles Wentworth, born at Norfolk Island way back in 1793, who published a poem, "Australasia," as early as 1823, in which he implored "Celestial poesy" to

   Descend thou also on my native land, 
   And on some mountain-summit take thy stand;
   Thence issuing soon a purer font be seen
   Than charmed Castalia or famed Hippocrene;
   And there a richer, nobler fane arise,
   Than on Parnassus met the adoring eyes.

In his forecast, "The Dominion of Australia," written in 1877, James Brunton Stephens touches a fine chord:      

   She is not yet; but he whose ear
   Thrills to that finer, atmosphere
      Where footfalls of appointed things,
      Reverberant of days to be
      Are heard in forecast echoings,
         Like wave-beats from a viewless sea --
   Hears in the voiceful tremors of the sky
   Auroral heralds whispering, "She is nigh."

There is a fine national sentiment
in every line of James Lister Cuthbertson. "Australia Federata," because Australia has gone, and is still going, through the trials and tribulations the poet considered essential for a national spirit:

   Australia! land of lonely lake
      And serpent-haunted fen;
   Land of the torrent and the fire and fire-sundered men:
   Thou art now as thou shalt be
      When the stern invaders come,
   In the hush before the hurricane,
      The dread before the drum.

      .   .   .   .   .

   A louder thunder shall be heard
      Than echoes on thy shore,
   When o'er the blackened basalt cliffe
      The foreign cannon roar --
   When the stand is made in the sheoaks' shade
      When heroes fall for thee,
   And the creeks in gloomy gullies run
      Dark crimson to the sea:

      .   .   .   .   .

   Then, only then - when after war
      Is peace with honour born,
   When from the bosom of the night
      Comes golden-sandalled morn,
   When laurelled victory is thine,
      And the day of battle done,
   Shall the heart of a mighty people stir,
      And Australia be as one.

Henry Lawson, in "The Star of Australasia," foresaw, as Cuthbertson did, the strengthening of the spirit of nationhood through war:

   We boast no more of our bloodless flag, that rose from a nation's slime;
   Better a shred of a deep-dyed rag from the storms of the olden time.
   From grander clouds in our "peaceful skies" than ever were there before
   I tell you the Star of the South shall rise - in the lurid clouds of war.

A fitting conclusion to so brief an outline from Australia's writers, who have contributed to the national spirit, will be found in the lines from "The Bush," of Bernard O'Dowd:

   All that we love in olden lands and lore
      Was signal of her coming long ago!
   Bacon foresaw her, Campanella, More,
      And Plato's eyes were with her star aglow!
   Who toiled for Truth, whate'er their countries were,
      Who fought for Liberty, they yearned for her!
   No corsair's gathering ground, nor tryst for schemers,
      No chapman Carthage to a huckster Tyre,
   She is the Eldorado of old dreamers,
      The Sleeping Beauty of the World's dawn!

First published in The Argus, 14 October 1944

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Combined Reviews: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

tender_morsels.jpg    Tender Morsels
Margo Lanagan
Allen & Unwin

[This novel won the 2009 Ditmar and 2009 World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel.]

From the publisher's page

Tender Morsels is a dark and vivid story, set in two worlds and worrying at the border between them. It is a gloriously told tale of journeys and transformations, penetrating the boundaries between male and female, reality and myth, conscious and unconscious, temporal and spiritual, human and beast.

Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, given to her by natural magic and in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters, gentle Branza and curious Urdda, grow up in this harmonious world, protected from the violence and village prejudice that once made their mother's life unendurable.

But the real world cannot be denied forever, and gradually the borders break down between Liga's refuge and the place from which she escaped. Having known heaven, how will Liga and her daughters survive back in the world where beauty cannot be separated from cruelty? How far can you take your fantasies before they grow dangerous? How fully can you protect your children, and how completely should you?

Building on a mythic scaffolding, Margo Lanagan asks timeless questions about what it is to be human. She unflinchingly explores the evil and sweetness in the world and reveals the essential magic of learning to live with both.

A long-awaited novel from an author acclaimed for the fearless range of her imagination, the emotional intensity of her stories, and the virtuosity of her writing.

A story of astonishing beauty, originality and power.


Garry K. Wolfe in Locus magazine: "Lanagan's Tender Morsels is perhaps best approached without any YA preconceptions, for reasons that become apparent before we're halfway through the prologue, which begins literally with a roll in the hay ("you have the kitment of a full man," explains the witch to the dwarf, "however short a stump you are the rest of you."). Long before we get to the graphic bear-fuck in Chapter 9 or the voodoo gang-rape sodomy later on, we've figured out that Lanagan shows little interest in pulling punches in the interest of perceived sensibility, and have begun to wonder if her notions of YA derive more from Thomas Hardy or D.H. Lawrence than Judy Blume. But we're also beginning to realize that the brutal intensity of the novel's more graphic bits is a necessary counterbalance to a tale that somehow manages to end on a note of almost astonishing sweetness, and that for a good part of its length takes place in a Wordsworthian bucolic idyll that is one character's notion of heaven...it's a brilliant realization of a brilliant promise, and a profoundly moving tale."

Van Ikin in "The Sydney Morning Herald": "Medieval times have done well in recent years, providing the magic-infused playpen into which most fantasy escapes. Only the better writers capture what Margo Lanagan calls the 'broad-hipped childbearing flavour' of the medieval and few successfully combine the glitter of magical special effects with the ordure and suffering of those times. This novel does....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."

Meg Rossoff in "The Guardian": "I'd like to go out on a limb here, and say that nothing in the world of adult summer reading can compare with the revolutionary content of a novel you are likely to find in the young adult section of your local bookshop. Tender Morsels, by the Australian author Margo Lanagan, is funny, tragic, wise, tender and beautifully written. It also left me gasping with shock...Lanagan handles a variety of points of view and a large cast of humans and animals with great delicacy and restraint. Her characters grapple with the terrible damages inflicted by life and the inevitability of death, and although she offers them (and us) no easy consolation, the book celebrates human resilience and unexpected gifts: 'children touched with charm, clueless that it was within them; maids whose frivolous fortune-telling always held a grain of truth; mothers and wives whose soups were as good as medicines; men who attracted luck, or women who sped healing'...It is with a mixture of respect and delight that I greet any book capable of blasting an entire genre out of the water with its audacity and grace. Tender Morsels is such a book."

Short Notices

"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).

Melanie Saward on the "M/C Reviews" website: "The only downside to reading a book with such a beautiful world, is that in loving the characters as though they were real and getting lost in the words, you'll almost certainly be left wanting more. This is a big book, but it could have easily been bigger. While the ending is lovely and satisfying, there are still questions and there's still room for the reader to consider what might have happened next in this world. But that's the magic of what Lanagan has done, creating a story that's so real that the characters could easily have gone on living beyond the pages of the book."

Carly Bennett on the "Chicklish" website: "When I picked up Tender Morsels the first thing that struck me was the cover art. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I know it's wrong but I really do judge a book by its cover and Tender Morsels has one of the most interesting covers I've seen in a long time. Like some twisted version of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, the cover really sets the tone of the book, which flicks from beauty to horror seamlessly."

Bridie Roman on the "SFFWorld" website: "The book is quite beautiful in places, with a lot of scenes that were especially well written and touching but there is a certain lack of pace that out-weighed the beautiful nature of the writing. Now, I am used to reading more action packed books so you may call me biased and stuck in my ways but I did come away with a feeling of; what has really happened? Sure, there were horrible sex acts but other than that... nothing! I didn't feel any urgency while reading even the most unusual scenes. In the end, what I found most impressive is that, despite all the obstacles, ultimately other emotions did shine through, such as despair, hope and love, and it is these I would say are the real backbone of the book."

"Fantasy Book Review" website: "Tender Morsels never once tries to show that life has a happily ever after ending. It shows that life is full of hardship; you will experience hurt, you will watch loved ones die and you will often be afraid. It also shows that live can be full of love, caring and kindness. It is better to experience something, be it good or bad, than to experience nothing at all."

"Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews" website: "I have to admit that sometimes looking over the difficulties of the world from Tender Morsels I wished for the main characters to remain in their corner of paradise. But here is the exclusive merit of the author, who not only captures many emotions in her story, but also made me feel most of them. I also liked that the characters have their unique and strong voice and I could feel them manifest it in each dialogue they have within the story. Still, I have to say that I couldn't attach myself too much of any character, but I believe that this is because I do not have a common ground with any of them."


Jeff Vandermeer in "ClarkesWorld" magazine.

Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert on the "Blog of a Bookslut" weblog.

David Larsen in the "New Zealand Herald".

Lynne Jamneck on "Suite101.com" website.

Kerrie Anne on "The View from Here" website.

Other covers

tender_morsels_uk.jpg    tender_morsels_us.jpg    tender_morsels_uk_ya.jpg    tender_morsels_aus_p.jpg
UK Hardcover    US Hardcover    UK YA Hardcover    Aust paperback
(Feb 2010)

Best SF and Fantasy Stories of the Year 2009

Each year sf editor and anthologist Jonathan Strahan, from Western Australia, choses his selection of best sf and fantasy stories of the year for his annual collection.   For 2009 he has chosen 29 stories and has listed them on his weblog.  Well, actually, he only lists 28 of the 29 stories, but there is a reason for that, as he explains

Among Jonathan's selections are the following by Australians:

"Ferryman" by Margo Lanagan
"This Wind Blowing, and This Tide" by Damien Broderick

Jonathan also links to Rich Horton's selection which is also slated for publication.  There are some similarities in the two lists.  Curiously the same two Australians appear on Horton's list, but with completely different stories.

"The Qualia Engine" by Damien Broderick
"Living Curiousities" by Margo Lanagan

Australian Bookcovers #192 - Blood Moon by Garry Disher


Blood Moon by Garry Disher, 2009
Cover design by Chong
Text Publishing edition, 2009

#5 in the Challis series

Major Australian Literary Anniversaries in 2010

Births in 1910
Alec Coppel (d. 1972)
Walter Cunningham (d. 1988)
Brian Elliott (d. 1991)
Alan Moorehead (d. 1983)
Frank O'Grady (d. 1987)
Elizabeth Riddell (d. 1998)
Clive Sansom (d. 1981)
Walter Stone (d. 1981)
Elizabeth Webb
Deaths in 1910
James Lister Cuthbertson (b. 1851)
Mary Fortune (b. 1833?)
Catherine Helen Spence (b. 1825)

First Publication in 1910
"Ah, If Only We Could" by Mary Gilmore
Bells and Bees by Louis Esson
"The Boozers' Home" by Henry Lawson
"Bush Goblins" by H. M. Green
Bushland Stories by Amy Eleanor Mack
"A Bush Publican's Lament" by Henry Lawson
"The Christ-Child Day in Australia" by Ethel Turner
The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
"His Brother's Keeper" by Henry Lawson
"An Old Master" by C.J. Dennis
"The Poet" by Bernard O'Dowd
The Rising of the Court and Other Sketches in Prose and Verse by Henry Lawson
The Skyline Riders and Other Verses by Henry Lawson
"Two Sundowners" by Henry Lawson
"When Dawson Died" by Sumner Locke
"You, and Yellow Air" by John Shaw Neilson

Births in 1960
Adam Aitken
Kerry Argent
Catherine Bateson
Shane Dix
Michel Faber
Pamela Freeman
Frieda Hughes
Margo Lanagan
Kirsty Murray
Anna Nicholson
Narelle Oliver
Tim Richards
Michael Robotham
Dipti Saravanamuttu
Margaret Simons
Tim Winton

Deaths in 1960
Frank Fox (b. 1874)
N.K. Hemming (b. 1927)
E.V. Timms (b. 1895)

First Publication in 1960
Australian Bird Poems by Judith Wright
Closer to the Sun by George Johnston
Cop this Lot by Nino Cullota
A Descant for Gossips by Thea Astley
The Irishman by Elizabeth O'Conner
Poems by A.D. Hope
The Rocks of Honey by Patricia Wrightson
Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute
Valley of Smugglers by Arthur Upfield

Currently Reading

The Quiet American

The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Greene's famous novel about the French War in Vietnam in the 1950s and the beginnings of American involvement. Such power behind such a delicate touch.


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.


Recently Read

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.


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.


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