April 2010 Archives

Peter Porter (1929-2010)


The UK-based Australian poet Peter Porter has died at the age of 81.  

Porter was born in Brisbane in 1929, and, after working as a journalist in his home town he emigrated to England in 1951.  In 1955 he joined The Group, a collection of poets based in London who were dissatisfied with the way poetry was being read aloud in Cambridge University.  It was his association with this group that led to the publication of his first collection of poetry in 1961, Once Bitten Twice Bitten. Twenty-two further collections of poetry followed.

By the end of his life Porter was considered one of the best poets working in English.  He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2004, and in 2007 was made a Royal Society of Literature Companion of Literature, an honour that is bestowed on a maximum of ten living writers.

A number of tributes have now been published including those written by James Bradley, on his weblog "City of Tongues", and Stephen Romei on "A Pair of Ragged Claws", the literary weblog of "The Australian" newspaper.

Quote: Material for a Literature

You notice that Mrs. Praed knows her art.  She can place a thing before you so that you can see it.  She is not alone in that.  Australia is fertile in writers whose books are faithful mirrors of the life of the country and of its history.  The materials were surprisingly rich, both in quality and in mass, and Marcus Clarke, Rolph Boldrewood, Gordon, Kendall, and the others, have built out of them a brilliant and vigorousliterature, and one which must endure.  Materials --there is no end to them!  Why, a literature might be made out of the aboriginal all by himself, his character and ways are so freckled with varieties -- varieties not staled by familiarity, but new to us.  You do not need to invent any picturesquenesses; whatever you want in that line he can furnish you; and they will not be fancies and doubtful, but realities and authentic.  In his history, as preserved by the white man's official records, he is everything - -everything that a human creature can be.  He covers the entire ground.  He is a coward -- there are a thousand facts to prove it. He is brave -- there are a thousand facts to prove it.  He is treacherous -- oh, beyond imagination! he is faithful, loyal, true -- the white man's records supply you with a harvest of instances of it that are noble, worshipful, and pathetically beautiful.  He kills the starving stranger who comes begging for food and shelter there is proof of it.  He succors, and feeds, and guides to safety, to-day, the lost stranger who fired on him only yesterday -- there is proof of it.  He takes his reluctant bride by force, he courts her with a club, then loves her faithfully through a long life -- it is of record.  He gathers to himself another wife by the same processes, beats and bangs her as a daily diversion, and by and by
lays down his life in defending her from some outside harm -- it is of record.  He will face a hundred hostiles to rescue one of his children, and will kill another of his children because the family is large enough without it.  His delicate stomach turns, at certain details of the white man's food; but he likes over-ripe fish, and brazed dog, and cat, and rat, and will eat his own uncle with relish.  He is a sociable animal, yet he turns aside and hides behind his shield when his mother-in-law goes by.  He is childishly afraid of ghosts and other trivialities that menace his soul, but dread of physical pain is a weakness which he is not acquainted with.  He knows all the great and many of the little constellations, and has names for them; he has a symbol-writing by means of which he can convey messages far and wide among the tribes; he has a correct eye for form and expression, and draws a good picture; he can track a fugitive by delicate traces which the white man's eye cannot discern, and by methods which the finest white intelligence cannot master; he makes a missile which science itself cannot duplicate without the model -- if with it; a missile whose secret baffled and defeated the searchings and theorizings of the white mathematicians for seventy years; and by an art all his own he performs miracles with it which the white man cannot approach untaught, nor parallel after teaching.  Within certain limits this savage's intellect is the alertest and the brightest known to history or tradition; and yet the poor creature was never able to invent a counting system that would reach above five, nor a vessel that he could boil water in.  He is the prize-curiosity of all the races. To all intents and purposes he is dead -- in the body; but he has features that will live in literature.

From Following the Equator by Mark Twain, Chapter XXII (1897)


Backblock Ballads and Later Verses by C. J. Dennis, 1918
Cover by Hal Gye
Angus and Robertson edition 1983

Poem: Honor of Anzac by C. J. Dennis

On Anzac Day when first the sun
   Looked on the stricken shore below,
Upon a sacrifice begun
   That was to drag thro' years of woe,
There youth, unbloodied and untried,
   Strove for a dear land leagues away,
And, to uphold her honor, died
         On Anzac Day.

They went, not meanly, since they must,
   But blithely to the sacrifice,
Leaving with us a holy trust,
   They went to pay the utmost price:
The price of honor that day won
   By many a lad, so lately gay,
Whose sightless eyes looked to that sun
         Of Anzac Day.

Theirs the full right to ask of life
   Her countless treasures for their own,
Not bloody agony and strife
   That folly of old worlds had sown.
Yet for their honor, and for ours,
   They saw no choice but to obey,
And found, what hells of pain-filled hours
         On Anzac Day?

For honor.  Is it but a name
   Now that their memory grows dim
In these drab days of peaceful shame
   When we wage battles no less grim
Because no dead bestrow the field
   And clamorous guns are years away?
Yet have we, too, no price to yield
         For Anzac Day?

For honor!  We were proud indeed,
   Vicarious glory swelled each breast
To know our sons had proved the breed,
   To know our seed had stood the test,
To know our kin had played the game
   As all true men would have them play.
Our honor 'twas they raised to fame
         On Anzac Day.

And shall those men who now conspire
   With foes more dread than Turk or Hun
To drag that honor in the mire
   Be counted kith to such a son?
While hucksters in the market place
   Would sell it for a hireling's pay,
Are we to bear this last disgrace
         On Anzac Day?

Surely this Honor still means much -
   Enough to men high in the State
To snatch it from the spoiler's clutch
   And keep that trust inviolate.
Surely enough remain to hedge
   Above that banner passed our way.
And save unsullied still the pledge
         Of Anzac Day.

First published in The Herald, 25 April 1931
[Today is ANZAC Day.]

2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize

The winners of the 2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize have been announced.

Best Book was won by Rana Dasgupta for his novel Solo, and Best First Book was won by Australian Glenda Guest for her novel Siddon Rock.

You can read the full list of shortlisted works here and the winners of the regional prizes here.

Reprint: Talking of Odes by C. J. Dennis

Talking of Centenary odes - No: I shall not say what I was going to say, because I believe that the encouragement of poetic expression, or, if you like, verse writing and verse appreciation, is a good thing for this, or any other country. Others will perhaps recall, better than I, his exact phrasing who declared that he would willingly forgo all other triumphs in his country's service were he permitted to write his country's songs. And the truth underlying that strange aspiration is as vital today as it was when the lines were written.

But I am afraid that the majority of us (including the verse writers) have grown too mentally indolent to delve a little and discover why truth should be there, and why it should be vital.

If you don't want to make the discovery, well, you won't. And that's that. Keep on lobbying, and try to induce the Government to raise the duty on something you are making, or to lower the duty on something you are importing, or to pay a bonus on something you are producing, and you will probably make a lot more money, and be happy ever after.

Do you know that, not so many years ago, Australia, in proportion to population, had more poets and verse writers than any country on earth, with the possible exception of Wales? But Australia's proportion of verse buyers (and so, presumably, verse readers) was easily the highest.

In recent years the beating of the primitive tom-tom, the howls, cat-calls, and cacophony of jazz, and the wailing cry of unspeakable crooners, have deafened the listening world to the voice of the poet crying in a wilderness. We are, for the moment, in the hands of the cheap-jacks; but they shall not prevail.

For today signs are not wanting that poetry (and its humble sister, verse) are coming back to their respective dominion. Poetry, one of the great arts of man, will inevitably survive, because it IS one of the great arts, and, therefore, Imperishable.

The revival of poetry may not come in the old forms of pastoral simplicities, in heroic and other forms that thrilled our forebears. It may take on nobler and even grander forms. Who knows? Even the free verse addicts may be groping for something. But come it will.

But modern exponents of jungle rhythm and archaic antiphonies, distorted out of recognition, need not pride themselves that they have had hand in the temporary setback that poetry has suffered. That came in the 'nineties, with the inevitable swing of the pendulum form the limit of the arc which it had reached in the 'eighties. Tennyson, Swinburne, the strangely virile Henley, and their ilk sang its lullaby. Then came the worldly wise men who "watched their step" (and their publishers). Kipling, Meredith, Hardy, all wrote verse - sometimes poetry - but it was, as it were, a by-product of their industry.

With the waxing of the industrial age they, too, had become, unconsciously, industrialist. Thus Kipling, who wrote "The Recessional" and "The Widower" for his heart, also wrote "Plain Tales from the Hills" and "Jungle Stories" for a living.

So with Meredith and Hardy who, had they not been great novelists, might, in even happier circumstances, have been great poets. But they, prophetically, saw the writing on the wall, or in the newspapers, or somewhere, and did the worldly-wise thing. But the pendulum, if I see it aright, has reached its other extreme.

So, potential writers of the great Centenary Ode, be not discouraged! If your best is good, there is a chance that it will live.

I had intended this to be a brightly humorous article; but, carried away by what the Victorians roguishly called "the exuberance of my own verbosity," I have been led astray. I am sorry.

But, talking of Centenary Odes, my advice to young ode writers is: "Be exuberant; be verbose" - for your own entertainment. Then, for the public, cull the gold (if any) from the dross. And, if your best is good - who knows. Poetry may yet be classed among Australia's primary products, and be bolstered with a bonus.

First published in The Herald, 30 January 1934

Note: the centenary of the state of Victoria in 1934 brought forth the concept of an ode to commemorate the event. Dennis had a lot of fun with the idea, and a lot to say about it.

2010 Miles Franklin Award Shortlist

The shortlisted works for the 2010 Miles Franklin Award have been released.

The shortlist consists of:

The Bath Fugues, Brian Castro (Giramondo Publishing)
The Book of Emmett, Deborah Forster (Random House)
Butterfly, Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Group)
Lovesong, Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin)
Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey (Allen & Unwin)
Truth, Peter Temple (Text Publishing)

The winner will be announced on June 22.

Reprint: Mark Twain's Last Lecture

There was a packed house last night at the Protestant Hall to hear Mark Twain deliver his last talk in Sydney. He repeated the quaint discourse with which he opened last week; and, as on the former   occasion, he kept his audience highly diverted by his dry humour and oddity of fancy. He speaks with a peculiar intonation - almost a drawl - that adds point to his stories. He spoke of the eerie effect of the moonlight glinting on the pale white face of the corpse in the outhouse, and of his frightened bound through the window, taking the sash with him. His illustration of "special providence;" his description of an animal as not a "mongrel dog," but a "composite" or a "syndicate" dog; his reference to "burglars, lawyers, highway men - all that goes to make life happy;" and his account of his horse that was all "points" - these were hugely enjoyed by those present. Mark Twain has the happy gift of moving his audience at will, and the crowded house that listened to him last night testified to the success of his season in Sydney.
First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 September 1895

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

Note: Mark Twain travelled to Australia as a part of his global speaking tour in the 1890s.  You can read his account of his travels, Following the Equator, at the Gutenberg site.

Quote: On Preferring Travel Books

We changed cars.  This was at Albury.  And it was there, I think, that the growing day and the early sun exposed the distant range called the Blue Mountains.  Accurately named.  "My word!" as the Australians say, but it was a stunning color, that blue.  Deep, strong, rich, exquisite; towering and majestic masses of blue--a softly luminous blue, a smouldering blue, as if vaguely lit by fires within.  It extinguished the blue of the sky--made it pallid and unwholesome, whitey and washed-out. A wonderful color--just divine.

A resident told me that those were not mountains; he said they were rabbit-piles.  And explained that long exposure and the over-ripe condition of the rabbits was what made them look so blue.  This man may have been right, but much reading of books of travel has made me distrustful of gratis information furnished by unofficial residents of a country.  The facts which such people give to travelers are usually erroneous, and often intemperately so.  The rabbit-plague has indeed been very bad in Australia, and it could account for one mountain, but not for a mountain range, it seems to me.  It is too large an order.

From Following the Equator by Mark Twain, Chapter XIV

Australian Bookcovers #206 - Digger Smith by C. J. Dennis


Digger Smith by C. J. Dennis, 1918
Cover by Hal Gye
Angus and Robertson edition 1982

Helen Garner Watch #9

Reviews of The Spare Room

Steven Riddle on the "A Momentary Taste of Being" weblog: "I have finished my first book of the decade, and I could wish that it had been some other.  Not that this isn't a superb, compact, beautiful, and harrowing book.  It is.  In every respect it is well composed and beautiful executed. However, it is the kind of book that fills me with anxiety and dread--and I can't really say why--only that for me it is so."

"Crayongirl's Blog": "It might be short, but it truly is beautifully written.  The details leap out of the page, as Helen becomes more distressed by her friend's illness she focuses more on the beauty around her, noticing the red hue of a pot or the smell of coffee haunting the house after an evening of attempts at coffee enemas...It may sound strange to say, but I really enjoyed this book.  It was beautiful, haunting and elegiac, the prose was spartan but held such a variety of emotions from page to page."

Jess on the "Start Narrative Here" weblog: "The emotional impact on the reader doesn't come solely from the question of the morality of shady alternatives that falsely encourage hope in terminally ill patients, but rather the strength of the relationship between Nicola and Helen, even at its darkest and when all hope appears to be lost. As an unashamedly selfish twenty-something, it made me ask myself the question of how far would I be willing to go for someone I care about? What responsibilities to our loved ones do we hold in our relationship with them? To what extent are we willing to accept responsibility of their well being? In The Spare Room, Helen is happy to take on the draining routines of care even though she wasn't asked, but she also recognizes her own inability to fully deal with the situation."

Genevieve Fox writes of various reactions to the book amongst her fellow book club members.

"The Guardian" chose The Spare Room as one of "The Decade's Best Unread Books" describing it as: "This deceptively slight novel is as good as anything Canongate has ever published. Or will publish. It's deceptive in many ways and I think its great subtlety is one of the reasons that it will only get fully appreciated over time. I've read it three times now and on each occasion my awe at what Garner has achieved increases. The Spare Room is a brutally honest novel about death, friendship and emotional dishonesty, written in prose that manages to be both delicate and visceral. It was overlooked by all the judges of the literary prizes in this country and these prizes are key for a book like this to sell in any serious quantity. But I still remain confident that this exceptional book will be come to be widely regarded as a modern classic. Because that is what it is."

Mae, of the "Mad Bibliophile" weblog, went along in February to see Helen Garner in conversation with Jennifer Byrne at the new Wheeler Centre in Melbourne.

You can see some video of that night's events.

2009 Patrick White Playwrights' Award

The shortlist of works for the 2009 Patrick White Playwrights' Award has been released.

The shortlisted works are:

Damned, by Reg Cribb
Faces Look Ugly, by Tom Holloway
A Beautiful Gesture, by Ross Mueller
More & More, by Ian Wilding

The award for an unproduced play is worth $20,000 and was established in 2000 as an initiative of the Sydney Theatre Company and The Sydney Morning Herald. The winner will be announced on May 22nd.

Poem: Langwidge by C. J. Dennis

"The flamin' cows!" 'e ses; 'e did, an' worse;
   'Twas 'orrible the langwidge that 'e used.
It made me blood run cold to 'ear 'im curse;
   An' me that taken-back-like an' confused;
   W'ile them poor beasts 'e belted an' abused.
"They couldn't shift," 'e ses, "a blanky 'earse!
                     The flamin' cows!"

"The flamin' cows!" You oughter 'eard 'im curse.
   You would a bin that shocked. . . . An' the idear!
'Im usin' such remarks about a 'earse;
   An' 'is own brother buried not a year.
   "Not move a blanky 'earee!" 'e ses. My dear,
You 'ardly could imagine langwidge worse.
                     "The flamin' cows!"

"The flamin' cows!" Wot would the parson say?
   An' 'im so friendly-like with 'im an' 'er.
I pity 'er; I do, 'cos, in 'er way.
   She is respectable. But 'i! It's fur
   From me, as you well know, to cast a slur,
On anyone; but wot I 'eard that day. . . .
                     "The flamin' cows!"

"The flamin' cows!" I know quite well that we
   Ain't wot you'd call thin-skinned; and nasty pride
Is wot I never 'ad.... But 'er! ... W'y she --
   She's allus that stuck-up an' full o' side;
   A sorter thing I never could abide.
An' all the time 'er 'usband.... Goodness me!
                     "The flamin' cows!"

"The flamin' cows!" O' course 'e never knowed
   That I was list'nin' to 'im all the w'ile.
'E muster bin a full hour on the road;
   An', Lord, you could 'a' 'eard 'im for a mile.
   Jes' cos they stuck 'im in that boggy sile:
"If they ain't blanky swine," 'e ses, "I'm blowed!
                     The flamin' cows!"

"The flamin' cows!" W'y, if it 'ad occurred,
   An' me not 'eard, I'd 'ardly think it true.
An', you know well, I wouldn't breathe a word
   Against a livin' soul, I don't care 'oo;
   Not if the Queen of Hingland arst me to.
But, oh! that langwidge! If you only 'eard!
                     "The flamin' cows!"

"The flamin' cows!" 'e ses, an' more besides.
   An' fancy! 'Im! To think that 'e would swear!
W'y "Blarst!" 'e sez... Yes! "Blarst the'r blanky 'ides!"
   (Oh, you may well throw up your 'ands an' stare!)
   Yes - "Blarst," 'e ses, "the'r blanky 'ides an' 'air!
I'll out the blanky skin off er the'r sides!
                     The flamin' cows!"

First published in The Bulletin, 22 July 1909

Reprint: Joseph Conrad by Barney Reed

His visits to Australia

The writer has in his possession a letter from Joseph Conrad which definitely outlines the visits of the great author to Australia. Those numbered four, but quoting from the letter itself will tell of his visits in his own words: "I was in Sydney," he writes, "for the first time in 1879, then in 1880. I was appointed to the command of the barque Otago, belonging to Messrs Henry Simpson and Sons, by the British Minister in Bangkok, her master having died on her passage out. This was in 1887. I left her in 1889, resigning my command in order to return home by Suez. I visited Australia again in the years 1892-3 as chief mate of the ship Torrens. These are all the details bearing on my relations with Australia."

The letter, which is dated March 26, 1924, is written from Oswalds, Bishopsbourne, Kent, and concludes with a kindly, reference to his association with Australia. "... I met there with nothing but kindness from people in various social spheres, and I have acquired a great affection for that young continent, which will endure as long as my faculty of memory itself endures." Four months later the hand that penned those lines was stilled forever.

It was his connection with the Otago that prompted him to write in a reminiscence:  "It lies in me to confess at last . . . that I have been all my life -- all my two lives -- the spoiled adopted child of Great Britain, and even of the Empire; for it was Australia that gave me my first command."

His first visit, to Australia -- 1879 -- was as an able-bodied seaman on the Duke of Sutherland, sometimes called the Iron Duke, and it was on her docks that he kept watch night after night as she lay in Sydney Harbour. His impressions were mentally stored up, and recorded in "The Mirror of the Seas" many years later. His second visit the following year was on the Loch Etive, of which he was third officer. In his "Last Essays" he relates how, whilst at sea on Christmas Day on the first-mentioned clipper, they prepared a keg to hold some old "Heralds" and other papers for a Yankee whaler they sighted. It was in the Southern Ocean, latitude 51, and the whaler, they learnt, was two years out from New York, and two hundred and fifteen days on the cruising ground. "We passed," he writes, "sailing slowly, within a hundred yards of her; and just as our steward started ringing the breakfast bell, the captain and I held aloft. In good view of the figures watching us over her stern, the keg, properly headed up and containing, besides an enormous bundle of old newspapers, two boxes of figs in honour of the day. We flung it far out over the rail. Instantly our ship, sliding down the slope of a high swell, left it far behind in our wake. On hoard the Alaska a man in a fur cap flourished an arm; another, a much be-whiskered person, ran forward suddenly. I never saw anything so ready and so smart as the way that whaler, rolling desperately all the time, lowered one of her boats. The Southern Ocean went on tossing the two ships like a juggler his gilt balls, and the microscopic white speck of the boat seemed to come into the game instantly, as if shot out from a catapult on the enormous and lonely stage. That Yankee whaler lost not a moment in picking up her Christmas present from the English wool clipper. . . . She dipped her ensign in thanks, and asked to be reported 'All well, with a catch of three fish.'"

Conrad's visit to Australia as chief mate of the Torrens, under Captaln Cope, was not only his last to Australia, but the return voyage marked the end of his sea-faring career. The Torrens, after a chequered life, was broken up at Genoa in 1910.

Meanwhile Conrad worked out his literary career. "Twenty-four Conrads." a friend said to him one day, as he looked at a row of volumes. "I must make it a round twenty five," said Conrad, but the twenty-fifth was, alas, the unfinished "Suspense."

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 March 1929

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

2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

The shortlisted works for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award have been released.

The shortlist is:

The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (Dutch) in translation. Harvill Secker
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (French) in translation. Europa Editions, USA, Gallic Press, UK
In Zodiac Light by Robert Edric (British) Doubleday, UK
Settlement by Christoph Hein (German) in translation. Metropolitan Books
The Believers by Zoë Heller (British) Fig Tree
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (Irish) Fourth Estate, HarperCollins, UK, Pantheon Books, USA
God's Own Country by Ross Raisin (British) Viking
Home by Marilynne Robinson (American) Farrar, Straus & Giroux, USA, HarperCollins, Canada

The winner of the award will be announced on June 17th.

Details of Australian books longlisted for the award were published here.

Reprint: Letter to the Editor Regarding Mrs. Campbell Praed


Sir, - Your sub-leader of to-day, "A Literary Pioneer," is most interesting to one who in the past has read the novels of Mrs Campbell Praed, and other Australian literary pioneers. This clever author might easily write descriptions, said in her day to be unsurpassed, of the scenery of her native land, for she was reared amongst the mountains of southern Queensland, where exists some of the finest and most beautiful scenery to be found in Australia. Maroon, the station home of the Murray-Priors, stood close to the mountain of that name, with the peaks of Mt. Barney and the grand castellated cap of Mt. Lindesay not far away.

In the early seventies the poet Brunton Stephens lived for a time with Captain Sherwood's family at Unumgar, a station on the headwaters of the Richmond, and almost under the shadow of Mt. Lindesay. Visits were exchanged between the stations, and it is not improbable that the influence of the cultured Englishman had something to do with shaping the literary destiny of the talented young Australian.

About 1883 Mr. T. L Murray-Prior stayed several days with us at Bentley, on the Richmond. Through news contained in recent letters from England, he was then justifiably proud of the fact that at a dinner party his daughter, our brilliant Australian authoress, had been introduced to the Prince of Wales and taken into dinner by the "grand old man," Gladstone, no less.

I am, etc,


Roseville, April 20.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 1935

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

Note: this letter refers to an article I reprinted here last week.

Australian Bookcovers #205 - Doreen by C. J. Dennis

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Doreen by C. J. Dennis, 1917
Cover by Hal Gye
Angus and Robertson edition 1981

Kate Grenville Watch #7

Review of The Idea of Perfection

Jill on "The Orange Prize Project" weblog: "A word of caution to readers who haven't read The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville. It's like a wonderful homemade soup. You first add the ingredients, slowly stir and then after hours of simmering, it becomes a tasty delight. The Idea of Perfection took a few chapters to get going, but readers who stick with this story are in for a wonderful literary experience...Through this character-driven story, Grenville showed readers that perfection is nothing more than an idea - a perception held by an individual. The perfect face, perfect marriage and even a perfect bridge are never really perfect. Anyone can find a flaw. However, it's the flaws that make those things so interesting."

Reviews of The Secret River

On the "Joe Bloggs" weblog: "It's a well told story, based a little on the true experiences of the authors ancestors. It is full of wonderful descriptions of Australia and its contrast with grey London. The dialogue is written in italics, which I found a little distracting, but it is a wonderful, simple tale, well told. I'm not sure about the title, I found it a little misleading but you make your own mind up. A great read."

On the "Lady of Leisure" weblog: "Grenville makes it clear that the growth and settlement of white people comes at a huge moral price for the settlers. Murder, a crime which in most cases was far worse than the ones for which they were sent to Australia in the first place, became an accepted method of dealing with the 'blacks'. It was justified as necessary in order to survive. This must have weighed heavily on the minds of those men and women involved. Despite this,  as Grenville points out, future generations, even the children of the original settlers, are unaware of this guilt."

Reviews of The Lieutenant

On the "Melbarts" weblog: "This is a work of huge imaginative power and grace. Grenville has a distinctive, authoritative take on the historical novel; rather than overburdening the reader with realms of historical fact, she wears her obviously considerable research extremely lightly. Historical details unfold as they are needed for the momentum of the narrative...The book, then, is deeply political but in no way is it politically correct. Nor should it be seen as a substitute for history: hopefully it will send scurrying to the history books those interested readers searching for more background information."

Natasha Tripney in "The Observer": "Writing in a clear, simple style, Grenville elegantly evokes the wonder and tension inherent in the first meetings between these two different worlds."

Lesley McDowell in "The Independent": "Kate Grenville's latest novel, about a young 18th-century English astronomer who is among the first settlers and soldiers to arrive in New South Wales, is historical fiction elevated into the category of 'literary fiction', not so much by its research as by its psychological truth. Historical writers know that their readers demand a certain level of information: we want to learn about times different from our own, and it's not so much recognition that we crave in our ancestors as a sense of their difference...The Lieutenant is a lovely example of historical fiction at its best: complex, demanding, and always revealing."


On the author's website.


Grenville reflects on her use of historical material in her recent work, in an essay titled "The Novelist as Barbarian" for the Naional Library of Australia.

On Slow TV, the author discusses:

The Lieutenant (Part 1)
The Lieutenant (Part 2)
Writers in a Tme of Change, her keynote address at the 2009 Festival of Ideas, held at the University of Melbourne.

The "Booklover Book Reviews" weblog gives an overview of all of Grenville's novels.

Book Plate #1 - Convent of the Sacred Heart

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Found in Wine and Roses by Victor Daley,
Angus and Robertson edition 1913

Poem: The Poet by Bernard O'Dowd

They tell you the poet is useless and empty the sound of his lyre,
That science has made him a phantom, and thinned to a shadow his fire:
Yet reformer has never demolished a dungeon or den of the foe
But the flame of the soul of a poet pulsated in every blow.

They tell you he hinders with tinklings, with gags from an obsolete stage,
The dramas of deed and the worship of Laws in a practical age:
But the deeds of to-day are the children of magical dreams he has sung,
And the Laws are ineffable Fires that from niggardly heaven he wrung!

The bosoms of women he sang of are heaving to-day in our maids:
The God that he drew from the Silence our woes or our weariness aids:
Not a maxim has needled through Time, but a poet had feathered its shaft,
Not a law is a boon to the people but he has dictated its draft.

And why do we fight for our fellows? For Liberty why do we long?
Because with the core of our nerve-cells are woven the lightnings of song!
For the poet for ages illumined the animal dreams of our sires,
And his Thought-Become-Flesh is the matrix of all our unselfish desires!

Yea, why are we fain for the Beautiful? Why should we die for the Right?
Because through the forested æons, in spite of the priests of the Night,
Undeterred by the faggot or cross, uncorrupted by glory or gold,
To our mothers the poet his Vision of Goodness and Beauty has told.

When, comrades, we thrill to the message of speaker in highway or hall,
The voice of the poet is reaching the silenter poet in all:
And again, as of old, when the flames are to leap up the turrets of Wrong,
Shall the torch of the New Revolution be lit from the words of a Song!

First published in The Bulletin, 13 January 1910

Combined Reviews: Truth by Peter Temple

truth.jpg    Truth
Peter Temple
Text Publishing

[This novel has been longlisted for the 2010 Miles Franklin Award.]

From the publisher's page

At the close of a long day, Inspector Stephen Villani stands in the bathroom of a luxury apartment high above the city. In the glass bath, a young woman lies dead, a panic button within reach.

So begins Truth, the sequel to Peter Temple's bestselling masterpiece, The Broken Shore, winner of the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Crime Novel.

Villani's life is his work. It is his identity, his calling, his touchstone. But now, over a few sweltering summer days, as fires burn across the state and his superiors and colleagues scheme and jostle, he finds all the certainties of his life are crumbling.

Truth is a novel about a man, a family, a city. It is about violence, murder, love, corruption, honour and deceit. And it is about truth.


Stephen Romei in "The Australian": "The Broken Shore is an extraordinary novel, winner of many awards, including the Duncan Lawrie Dagger, one of the world's top prizes for crime fiction. On its release in 2005 several critics made the point that it was a great novel, full stop, and that Temple, who migrated from South Africa in 1980, deserved to be considered in the first rank of Australian writers. His new novel should only reinforce those judgments. ..Temple's characters inhabit a landscape as disturbing as any conjured by Cormac McCarthy and, unlike the futuristic dystopia of The Road, their apocalypse is now."

Edmund Gorman in "The Observer": "Truth might seem, at first, a more promising title for a treatise on epistemology than a hardboiled detective story, so grand is the project that it appears to map out. Yet by the end of Peter Temple's new novel the title feels almost elegiac. The book's major theme is corruption, personal and political. Temple puts old-fashioned abstract values into conflict with a bleak vision of modern reality, and the result is consistently arresting...Temple has long been regarded as one of Australia's most accomplished crime writers, but this is only the second of his nine novels (after the widely acclaimed bestseller The Broken Shore, which features Villani as a minor character) to be published in Britain. A far more literary writer than most of his peers, he eschews the staccato prose rhythms that typify the genre, opting instead for long sentences that do their work over several clauses, blooming and shrinking, and achieving strange, impressionistic effects. His dialogue is entirely distinctive, full of the mangled poetry and beautiful solecisms of ordinary speech. His images can catch in the mind like things glimpsed under lightning. A dead girl's flesh is the colour 'of earliest dawn'. Autumn leaves move through the air 'like broken water, yellow and brown and blood'."

Lucy Clarke in "The Courier-Mail": "Peter Temple's latest book, Truth, is one that sticks. Story, style, suspense, supremely good use of punctuation: all the facets of Temple's latest gem make an indelible impression...It is mesmerising reading, and the tension he builds is so intense that as you make it to the final chapters you almost have to take the book in doses. "

Barry Forshaw in "The Independent": "Interestingly, the jacket comparisons here opt not for the customary James Lee Burke and James Ellroy, but JM Coetzee and Tom Wolfe. If this seems a little vainglorious, Temple's writing is always terse and economical, demonstrating that these two non-crime novelists are indeed apt models."

Short Notices

Karen on the "CrimeSpace" weblog: "The central core of this book is the peeling back of artifice, of pretence, of deception and doubt and the revealing of truth. The truth behind a young girls body in a luxury bathroom; the truth behind the tortured men hanging in a backyard in Oakleigh; the truth about colleagues, mentors and political masters; the truth behind Villani's marriage, his runaway tearaway teenage daughter; his relationship with his brothers; and his fractious, terse, uncomfortable relationship with a father who he doesn't understand, and he thinks, doesn't understand him. Truth is a subject that the reader has to conclude is very very close to Temple's heart as well."

Kerrie on the "Mysteries in Paradise" weblog: "Although the focus of Truth is Villani, and he and those around him question why they do this job, the central story is on a much broader canvas: Victoria in the grip of bushfires, a government teetering on the brink of an election, men with money and dreams, Villani's own history and a forest that means almost more to him than anything else in the world...Peter Temple is the master of a clipped and terse literary style, where dialogue feels like real conversation. There are times when he uses a word rather than a sentence, in some ways the style reminds me of a former Australian great - Patrick White."

Glenn Harper on the "International Noir Fiction" weblog: "The only Truth in Peter Temple's new novel of the Melbourne homicide squad is not what you might think (I won't spoil the revelation). The novel is a complex story with an ambivalent moral sense, told in terse coded dialogue among the police and an almost stream of consciousness narrative in the third person but from the point of view of the new head of homicide, Stephen Villani...In fact, the novelist I was most often reminded of is Joseph Wambaugh: like Wambaugh, Temple derives most of the comic element in the story from the dry wit and interplay among the cops. And like Wambaugh, crimes or moral lapses among the police are a big part of the atmosphere (along with stories about things that have happened among the cops in the past). But although authenticity in the depiction of the police is achieved by both, Temple reaches beyond that toward the complexity of Villani's life as a whole (partly in the stream of consciousness narrative that I mentioned before, a narrative style not chosen by Wambaugh in any of his books that I've read), from childhood forward, and also provides a concrete sense of Melbourne and Australia quite different from Wambaugh's southern California."


Ramona Kaval on ABC Radio National's "Book Show".

Jason Steger in "The Age".

Reprint: A Literary Pioneer

"The first Australian-born novelist of any importance" is the description by Mr. H. M. Green in his "Outline of Australian Literature" of Mrs. Rosa Caroline Mackworth Praed, whose death, at the age of 84 years, has just been announced from London. So passes one of our literary pioneers, and it is fitting that tribute be paid to her memory. Last week his Excellency the Governor, in opening the Australian Authors' Week, declared that the story of Australia's early days and the endeavours of her stout-hearted pioneers afforded a wonderful theme for romance, and it was the life of the seventies and eighties of last century that Mrs. Campbell Praed, as she was generally known, pictured so convincingly. In the same speech the Gover- nor also stated that "a nation, through its literature, becomes self-conscious, realises itself, and finds its soul. The achievements of its authors help to establish it in civilisation, to give it a status, and to command the respect of other nations." Should we therefore not be zealous in remembrance of those literary pioneers who helped to express the spirit of the country through their works, who have built up our literature just as the other pioneers have built up our material civilisation? The authoress who writes a good novel is doing as much for Australia as the settler who raises sheep. In the end, a first-class sonnet is more valuable than the finest merino fleece. In Europe, of course, these truths are recognised, and in France, for instance, the highest honours are paid to writers. The standing of an author is higher than that of the professional or business man. In Australia our scale of values has not yet reached that point of sophistication. Our literary pioneers are neglected. How many to-day, for example, have read "Such is Life" or even know the name of Joseph Furphy? Louis Stone's "Jonah" remained out of print for years until recently republished.

So, too, the name of Mrs. Campbell Praed is probably unfamiliar to this generation. Yet in 1892 Phillip Mennel, in his "Dictionary of National Biography," wrote: "Mrs. Campbell Praed is generally recognised as the most brilliant and successful of Australian novelists. Her descriptions of the scenery of her native land are unsurpassed." Some forty years later, that judgment must be revised; but the work of the Queensland authoress still stands high in our literature. She was not the first woman novelist here. Catherine Spence had written her novels in the fifties, and Ada Cambridge's "Up the Murray" was published in 1877, three years before Chapman and Hall, through the good offices of their reader, one George Meredith, published Mrs. Praed's "An Australian Heroine," which went into edition after edition and made the youthful Australian authoress famous in London. But the first two women novelists were Scotch and English respectively, and their work was not as Australian in spirit as hers. Rosa Caroline Murray Prior was bom in Queensland, and put into her work her experience of social and political life in Brisbane and of the life on the station on Curtis Island, off the Queensland coast, where she lived with her husband, a nephew of the same poet, W. M. Praed, who won the Chancellor's Medal at Cambridge against William Charles Wentworth, who wrote his well-known "Australasia, An Ode" for the occasion.

In London Mrs. Praed wrote some thirty novels, on both Australian and English themes, but it is interesting to note that the Australian ones are the best. Her pictures of the Queensland scene are drawn with truth and spirit, whilst she depicts with touches of humour as well as feeling and understanding the characters of the girls and women of the time, especially those on the stations who in their leisure read romances and dreamed of a wider world beyond the boundary fence. It is interesting to note here that in Australia, as overseas, women writers have excelled in fiction right from our early days. "The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney" is our best Australian novel, and our two finest novelists are "Henry Handel Richardson" and Katherine Susannah Prichard, whilst other women novelists include Brent of Bin Bin, Miles Franklin, M. Barnard Eldershaw, Ethel Turner, and Winifred Birkett. Although not of the same rank as Mrs. Campbell Praed, another Queensland authoress has recently passed in Mrs. Mabel Forrest, who wrote romances and short stories as well as the verse for which she is best known in this State. It is a prophetic coincidence that the last verse of Mrs. Forrest, which was published in the "Herald" only last September, was entitled "Life," and closed with the lines:

Fulness of life I ask, and then

A long, long sleep at last when I am dead,

Yet to the dead writers the living pay their tribute of remembrance, as they look back and watch Australian literature growing in richness and strength.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 1935

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

2010 NSW Premier's Literary Awards Shortlists

The shortlisted works for the 2010 NSW Premier's Literary Awards have been announced.

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
J.M. Coetzee, Summertime Random House Australia (Knopf)
Richard Flanagan, Wanting Random House Australia (Knopf)
Cate Kennedy, The World Beneath Scribe Publications
Steven Lang, 88 Lines About 44 Women Penguin Group (Australia)
David Malouf, Ransom Random House Australia (Knopf)
Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones Allen & Unwin

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction
Michael Cathcart, The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent The Text Publishing Company
Graham Freudenberg, Churchill and Australia Pan Macmillan Australia
Anna Goldsworthy, Piano Lessons Black Inc. Publishing
Richard Guilliatt & Peter Hohnen, The Wolf: How One German Raider Terrorized Australia and the Southern Oceans in the First World War Random House Australia (William Heinemann)
Paul McGeough, Kill Khalid: Mossad's Failed Hit ... And the Rise of Hamas Allen & Unwin
Noel Pearson, Up From The Mission: Selected Writings Black Inc. Publishing

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry
Jordie Albiston, the sonnet according to 'm' John Leonard Press
Emily Ballou, The Darwin Poems University of Western Australia Press
Judith Beveridge, Storm and Honey Giramondo Publishing Company
Emma Jones, The Striped World Faber and Faber London
Morgan Yasbincek, White Camel John Leonard Press

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature
Kathy Charles, Hollywood Ending The Text Publishing Company
Richard Harland, Worldshaker Allen & Unwin
Justine Larbalestier, Liar Allen & Unwin
Glenda Millard, A Small Free Kiss in the Dark Allen & Unwin
Kirsty Murray, Vulture's Gate Allen & Unwin
Pamela Rushby, When the Hipchicks Went to War Hachette Australia

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature
Allan Baillie, Krakatoa Lighthouse Penguin Group (Australia)
Morris Gleitzmann, Grace Penguin Group (Australia)
Lincoln Hall, Alive in the Death Zone: Mountain Survival Random House Australia
Richard Newsome, The Billionaire's Curse The Text Publishing Company
Gregory Rogers, The Hero of Little Street Allen & Unwin
Margaret Wild & Freya Blackwood (Illus), Harry and Hopper Omnibus Books

Community Relations Commission Award
Abbas El-Zein, Leave to Remain: A Memoir University of Queensland Press
Tim Soutphommasane, Reclaiming Patriotism: Nation-building for Australian Progressives Cambridge University Press

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing for Fiction
Steven Amsterdam, Things We Didn't See Coming Sleepers Publishing
Kathy Charles, Hollywood Ending The Text Publishing Company
Andrew Croome, Document Z Allen & Unwin
Glenda Guest, Siddon Rock Random House Australia (Vintage)
Karen Hitchcock, Little White Slips Pan Macmillan Australia
Kirsten Reed, The Ice Age The Text Publishing Company

Script Writing Award
Jane Campion, Bright Star Jan Chapman Films
Kristen Dunphy & Michael Miller, East West 101: Episode 13 Knapman Wyld Television Pty Ltd
Adam Elliot, Mary and Max Melodrama Pictures Pty Ltd
Fiona Seres, Tangle: Episode One Southern Star
Warwick Thornton, Samson and Delilah Scarlett Pictures Pty Ltd
Aviva Ziegler & Veronica Fury, Fairweather Man Fury Productions

Play Award
This category does not have a shortlist. This year a grant of $30,000 will be made
available to support professional development opportunities for new playwrights in New
South Wales in 2011.

NSW Premier's Prize for Literary Scholarship
Roslyn Jolly, Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific: Travel, Empire, and the Author's Profession Ashgate Publishing Limited
Philip Mead, Networked Language: Culture and History in Australian Poetry Australian Scholarly Publishing
Brigid Rooney, Literary Activists: Writer-intellectuals and Australian Public Life University of Queensland Press

The winners of these awards will be announced on May 17th.

Tom Keneally Watch #11

Reviews of The People's Train

Tom Adair in "The Times": "Why bother with Thomas Cook? For the price of a novel step aboard a Thomas Keneally tour of the world without leaving your armchair. Take off to Africa (Towards Asmara), the Middle East (The Tyrant's Novel), to America (Confederates) or to wartime Germany (Schindler's Ark)...Keneally's tours outshine his titles. The People's Train (emblematic of the Russian Revolution), is yet another lacklustre title. But, once aboard, the author's restlessness pays off. You're en route to Australia via Shanghai, then on to Russia, surveying the turbulent years of the early 20th century...A lesser writer might lazily have succumbed to historical hindsight, but Keneally portrays the mayhem of Russia in flux with a stringent adherence to the order (and disorder) of things. He presents in convincing minutia the Russia that is, creating a brittle verisimilitude that makes its melodramatic endgame surprisingly real."

Jon Wright on the "Bookmunch" weblog: "Keneally does a superbly consistent job of capturing his protagonist's voice. There is something faintly ridiculous about someone of Samsurov's radical credentials bothering himself with Brisbane's parochial issues, and his sense of muted dissatisfaction (even boredom) -- did he really escape incarceration and flee Russia via Japan and Shanghai for this -- is portrayed with great skill. He is meant for greater things and, in fact, the reader is alerted to this fact from the outset. The first part of the book is introduced as the retrospective memoir of Samsurov, "Late Hero of the Soviet Revolution," so we know all along that, come 1917, he will be back in the motherland, leading the charge...There are a few moments in Keneally's book when pedagogy trumps narrative flow, and this is a pity. Samsurov has a habit of explaining various aspects of Russian life or history to one of his Brisbane interlocutors in conspicuously precise detail: this sometimes feels like the author filling in potential gaps in his readers' knowledge, and it is all rather heavy-handed. This minor flaw aside, it is hard to fault Keneally's book. He paints a vivid portrait of what it must have felt like to be a Russian émigré stranded in early twentieth-century Australia but, just as importantly, it tells us a great deal about Australia's response to the world-changing events that were gradually coming to a boil."

Review of Australians: Origins to Eureka

Chris Saliba on "Webdiary": "In this new history of Australia novelist Thomas Keneally takes the reader from our continent's origins, some 45 millions years ago, when the landmass that is now Australia broke away from the super-continent known as "Gondwana". (The southern landmass Gondwana also comprised of India, Africa, South America and Antarctica. The name given to the other, northern landmass is Laurasia.)  Australians ends with the Eureka uprising, that extraordinary event of Australian history, which forged the iron in the nation's democratic soul. Privilege, authoritarian government, political chicanery, the interests of money, nepotism, all would feel the inexorable, countervailing forces of popular democratic agitation..Australians is a grand and absorbing feast of a book. There were many sections that I lingered over slowly, savouring Keneally's gift for bringing such a wide cast of characters to life, making the book a real experience. Keneally also writes in a witty, almost lapidary prose that is most appealing."

Review of Schindler's Ark

Lorraine Douglas on "The Complete Booker": "Keneally began researching and writing his documentary style novel - Schindler's Ark. I feel this first title signifies the Biblical message of Schindler's salvation of the Polish Jews he rescued in his factory in WW2. Akin to Noah saving mankind on his ark, Schindler's factory was considered a safe haven - almost like paradise compared to the concentration and labour camps of the Nazi regime. In many references in the book, Schindler is compared to and considered God...This is a powerful and unforgettable story...There is a real human touch to Keneally's writing which helped me to feel the intensity of the Holocaust and realize the message of Schindler's life."


Keneally chose 5 books about Russia for "The Moscow Times".

It seems the author is rather prone to wardrobe malfunctions, of a sort.

Keneally will be appearing at the 2010 Auckland Writers and Readers festival - 12-16 May.  He also gave the opening address at the 2010 Adelaide Writers' Festival.

And he ponders the Archibald Prize.

Reprint: Letter to the Editor Regarding Breaker Morant



Sir, - In an article under the above headings in last Saturday's issue of the "Herald," the following is stated about the "rebel," Maritz: "He died in the same yard and in the same way as did the Australian outlaw, Captain Harry Morant, in the Boer War, 14 years before." This assertion contains three mis-statements in as many words.

Morant was not an Australian, he was an Englishman, who came to this country for "colonial experience." He knocked about on stations breaking-in horses (hence his nom-de-plume of "The Breaker," under which he published verse). At the time of the Boer War he enlisted, in the ranks, in an Australian regiment, and when this was disbanded he joined the Irregular Corps (not raised in his country, but by Lord Kitchener in South Africa, for guerilla warfare purposes), called the "Bush Veld Carbineers," in which he obtained a commission as a lieutenant (he was never a "captain.") The late Major Lenehan was placed in command of the regiment, but the detachment with which Morant served was taken out of the command of Major Lenehan and placed under that of a certain "Captain" Taylor, under special order of Lord Kitchener, and for service in the far north of the Transvaal. There Morant distinguished himself, but was afterwards arrested, and, with others, court-martlalled, for "shooting Boer prisoners." Morant at the trials declared that he received those orders from his friend and superior officer. Captain Hunt, who was also an Englishman, and commissioned for special service with Captain Taylor, and who had been killed by the Boers under rather tragic circumstances. Morant averred that until Captain Hunt was thus killed, he (Morant) refused to carry out those "no prisoners" orders, but that after Hunt's death he decided that he would carry them out. In the circumstances, the court strongly recommended Morant and all the accused to mercy, but Lord Kitchener ordered him and another to be shot at 24 hours' notice.  Morant, however, was neither an "outlaw" nor a "rebel" (like Maritz). Why these loose statements are made 20 years after Morant was placed in his grave (in Pretoria cemetery) it is difficult to understand. The true story of the Bush Veld Carbineers has never been told, but perhaps some day it will be.

A remarkable fact in connection with those courtsmartial is this: Before Capt. Hunt, who was sent from Pretoria with reinforcements for Captain Taylor's detachment, certain Boer prisoners wore shot, but with those Morant had nothing whatever to do, and was not present - in fact if I remember rightly, he went to join Taylor along with Hunt. Taylor was in supreme command of this special detachment, both before and after the arrival of Hunt and Morant, and, though a charge was preferred against him in connection with these previous shootings, there was no conviction. Morant, the junior officer, and another, junior to Morant, were shot, whilst Taylor was acquitted.

As I defended all the accused, I, perhaps, know more about the facts than anyone else.

I am, etc.


First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June 1923

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

Note: the writer of this letter was protrayed by Jack Thompson in the 1980 film Breaker Morant, directed by Bruce Beresford.

Patricia Wrightson (1921-2010)

patricia_wrightson.jpg   Doyen of Australian writers for children and young adults, Patricia Wrightson has died at the age of 88.

Wrightson was the author of 28 novels, from The Crooked Snake in 1955, to A Wisp of Smoke in 2004. She was the winner of many prizes in Australia including: the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award in 1956 for The Crooked Snake, in 1974 for The Nargun and the Stars, in 1978 for The Ice is Coming, and in 1984 for A Little Fear. She was awarded an OBE for services to writing in 1978, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1986. The Children's Writing Award category of the NSW Premier's Literary Awards is named in her honour.

Not a lot of obituaries have been printed as yet, but you can get some idea of the esteem in which she was held by reading the following:

ABC News

"The Australian newspaper

"The Daily Examiner" newspaper, Grafton

Judith Ridge on the "Misrule" weblog

Jonathan Shaw on his weblog

,A href=http://www.smh.com.au/national/obituaries/author-delved-into-world-of-children-20100401-ri05.html>"The Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper

Australian Bookcovers #204 - The Glugs of Gosh by C. J. Dennis


The Glugs of Gosh by C. J. Dennis, 1917
Cover by Hal Gye
Angus and Robertson edition 1980

2010 Hugo Award Nominations

The nominations for the 2010 Hugo Awards, to be presented at the World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne in September, have been announced.

These awards are presented to "the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year", and are decided by reader vote, and cover a range of categories from Best Novel to Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form and Short Form.

This year Shaun Tan has been nominated in the category of Best Professional Artist, Jonathan Strahan in the category of Best Editor, Short Form and Helen Merrick in the category of Best Related Work for The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of SF Feminisms.

You must be a member (supporting or attending) of Aussiecon 4 to be able to vote for the awards.

Michael Robotham Interview

bleed_for_me.jpg    Michael Robotham is the author of a number of excellent crime thrillers including Lost, Suspect, and Shatter. HIs latest novel, Bleed for Me, has just been published and over the weekend he was interviewed by Jason Steger.
Robotham is one of those writers who doesn't plot in advance. He started the book twice, discarding 30,000 words of very different novels each time. ''It's like digging and you find a little dinosaur bone and you start brushing away and you don't know if you've found a massive dinosaur or a buried dog bone.''

He wouldn't have it any other way. ''If I knew what was going to happen right through from chapter to chapter it would be like a normal job. I wouldn't be excited about going to work every day. Things happen when I write that excite me, things surprise me, things shock me and things frighten me. And if they do me, they must the reader as well.''

But if the writer is in control, how can this happen?

''Like in all drama, you create these seeds of conflict, put your characters under pressure and see how they react. And suddenly you either come up with something new to throw into the mix to totally turn everything on its head or a character will react in a way you don't sort of expect.''

Lost Man Booker Prize Shortlist

A couple of months back I posted about the Man Booker Prize and the "lost" year of 1970 when the eligibility criteria changed and a number of novels missed out on the possibility of nomination.  The people in charge of the prize have decided to make a special award for these novels.  An original longlist of 22 novels was announced in February, and now a shortlist of 6 has been released.

The shortlisted novels are:

Nina Bawden, The Birds On The Trees
J.G.Farrell, Troubles
Shirley Hazzard, The Bay Of Noon
Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven
Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat
Patrick White, The Vivisector

The winner of this "lost" prize will be decided by the international reading public who can vote for their choice via the Man Booker website.  The winner will be announced on May 19, 2010.  

Currently Reading


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



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


Recently Read


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



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



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

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



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

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

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



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



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



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



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


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