June 2010 Archives

Morris Gleitzman Interview

now.jpg    Morris Gleitzman has recently published Now, the third book in a trilogy following Once and Then, and was last week interviewed by Marc McEvoy for "The Age".

These books are getting rave reviews, not least from my 11-year-old son who is now holding out for this latest book.
Gleitzman has never been afraid to confront young readers with serious issues. Boy Overboard is about a family living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan who seek asylum in Australia; and Two Weeks with the Queen is about a boy whose brother has cancer and who befriends a gay man dying of AIDS.

And in 2004 the then-immigration minister Amanda Vanstone accused Gleitzman of political propaganda for writing about refugee children in detention in Girl Underground. This was despite it being an uplifting tale focusing on everyday concerns of children with an undercurrent of humour (like all his stories). "I would never write stories with only despair and defeat and the dark side of life," he says.

"It's our potential for good stuff I'm most interested in exploring but that has most meaning when juxtaposed with things that can go wrong."

Gleitzman says he is concerned that the media can encourage children to develop a pessimistic view of the world: "I want to help children develop strengths that allow them to feel they don't have to push things away mentally . . . If we 'cotton-ball' kids, it produces adults who are too scared to think for themselves and are easily manipulated."

The Life and Times of C. J. Dennis by Alec H. Chisholm, 1982
Jacket illustration and design by Lynda Christie
Angus and Robertson edition 1982

Poem: A Brown Ballad by F. S. Ferguson

Brown was a city clerk whose pay,
   More modest than his aspirations,
Would scarcely keep him in the clay;
   He therefore lived with his relations.

But he had aims above his screw;
   Its smallness caused him deep contrition;   
To poetry his soul-thoughts flew,   
   To be a bard was his ambition.

Yet midst the bottle of the town
   He suffered dearth of inspiration,
So with his holidays young Brown
   Set off for Tamberooner station.

He got a job as station hand,
   A job of just one month's duration;
Brown meant to write some poems grand
   While up on what be called vacation.     

What feared he for the work! Not he;   
   He'd willingly endure privation;
He said he'd give his head to see   
   Bush life upon an outback station.

By train and coach he travelled out,
   Around no sign of cattle grazing;
'Twas in the middle of a drought,
   The sun above was fairly blazing.   

But Brown saw nought but beauty there,
   'Twixt deepest thought his brain immersing,
And, building castles in the air,
   He failed to hear the others cursing.

The coach track ended at a town   
   Some ten miles from his destination;
Brown tramped it as the sun-sank down,
   And got there bathed in perspiration.     

Now Tamberooner held in pride   
   A somewhat shady reputation --
The roughest on the Queensland side,   
   The hands on Tamberoonor station.   

They made things hot for Poet Brown,
   The station work not understanding;
They made his life not worth a crown;
   They always made him do the branding!   

They made him swing the axe all day,
   Till poor Brown's arms were dully aching,
From morn until the sun's last ray,
   The while he felt his back was breaking.

They led the man a fearful time,
   Those demons up at Tamberooner;
But Brown stuck to his task as slime
   Adheres to any anchored schooner.

And when of nights he wrote his verse
   He lacked no fund of inspiration;
He dealt those devils curse on curse,
   Condemned them to incineration.

The station men those verses found,
   Their contents fairly made them shiver;
They swore they'd have the author drowned,
   They'd throw him in the nearest river.

But Brown was toiling down the track,   
   His swag hung heavy on his shoulder,
His face was worn and bent his back,
   He looked at least some ten years older.

By coach and train he travelled down,   
   The bush around still dry and glaring;
Brown longed once more to be in town,
   And sat there silent, idly staring.

And though while there in town the work
   May dim his bright imagination,
He somehow does the duty shirk
   Of seeking after inspiration.

First published in The Queenslander, 6 February 1897

Reprint: Will Dyson: Creative Militant by Nettie Palmer

Brisbane has always seemed to, me very fortunate to have in its picture gallery certain war drawings by Will Dyson. Nothing that comes from this artist in black-and white is without significance and power. In the days before the war he was producing satirical cartoons in London, where all the political and social movements were like a map in his mind, and G. K. Chesterton described Will Dyson's lines as being like that of a stock-whip -- a long, leaping thing, with an exact flick at the tip. Then, during the war, Dyson first produced his famous series of "Kultur-Cartoons," exhibited, I think, in 1915. Of these, perhaps, the most famous was "Alone with his God." It showed the Kaiser, a small, frail, but very military, figure, bowed on some tremendous altar-stairs; on the level at the top of the stairs was a seated deity, figure and face in all ways like the Kaiser's as he would wish them to be, powerful, abundant, austere! A great conception, and, like all Dyson's work, not limited to its immediate impression. In the end, you were not left with contempt for an egocentric man, but with a pity for all possible types of egocentric mankind. A year or so after the appearance of "Kultur-Cartoons" Will Dyson was sent to the front as artist with the Australian army. Whatever other artists or journalists may have made of such an opportunity, with Dyson it was no sinecure, no safe billet. Apart from at least one wound, he suffered intensely in his sheer understanding of the men's agony and courage. He felt that here was a superb generation being destroyed before his eyes. It was this grief that found permanent expression in certain poems he then wrote -- poems that have a high place on their merits, and not merely as the work of one whose usual medium was line and not words -- and also in the war drawings like those in the gallery. When the war was over, Dyson was as exhausted as any soldier, and for cause. He has taken up his work, however, these many years past; and about six years ago he came back to Australia, where he now lives, his work leavening our lump. That our corporate life really is a "lump" he not only admits, but emphasises, and his analysis of the state of affairs was uttered last week in a brilliant lecture on "The Arts in Australia."


It is difficult to summarise a statement which, as delivered, was already summary and compact, but perhaps I can suggest its outline here. Will Dyson said, then, that we pay lip-service to the idea of art as nationally important, while giving art no practical basis in our national life. He was not dealing with the plastic arts nor with music, which in one way or another occupy a comparatively honoured position amongst us, but with literature the thought-basis of the arts, which is denied all serious expression. Along among "adult" and literate nations, we have no serious belief in the importance of giving full expression to our developing mental life. We have a lack of publishing houses, of quarterlies, of reviews, of satirical comment on our political and social life. We are content to be consumers, returning nothing to the world from which we import so freely:

An active publishing trade is the attribute of all adult nations. Until we have one we must remain colonial, provincial, and outside. It is essential to a right understanding of one nation by another. The publishing houses of Germany, by giving out such books as "All Quiet on the Western Front," and "The Case of Sergeant Grischa," are putting Germany back on to the map of human kinship. The same will soon be true of Russia. As is the American publishing houses that, by pouring out the works of Mencken, Dresier, Lewis, Sinclair, and O'Neill, are tempering the world's harsh and envious verdict on America.

What then will temper the world's verdict on us as a mere mental desert fed on tinned literature from overseas? Nothing but the habit of publishing books here. We cannot have Australian books effectively published and distributed here until, as in America, there is a publishing trade for all books. To make this possible we would need to alter our copyright law and make it in line with America's, a change that would be quite within our powers.


Impassioned for Australian self expression, and convinced that we have certain utterances to contribute towards the sum of world literature, Will Dyson begged his audience to face the facts of our inarticulate condition:

The picture of Australia going cap-in-hand to Europe and America for all its mental food and its aesthetic entertainment is a disquieting one. We live on the charity of the world! Hostile critics paint a gloomy picture of our mental impotence; we cannot answer it, we can only excuse it, which is to admit it. The evidence with which such critics might be confounded does not exist to our hand, printed and bound in the pages of a book.

And what are the excuses that we make once we are driven to the last resort? We say, only too often, that we are pioneers, too busy to look up from the plough! This comes well from the millions of Australians trotting in to city circulating libraries every week, and consuming whatever is handed out: Will Dyson said:

It is a little late in the day. We are no more pioneers than are the rate-payers of Birmingham, of Dresden, of Munich, of Paris. Less, perhaps - there they are pioneering in thought: here we are neglecting the exploration of our great open spaces of the Australian mentality.

Perhaps it is best to leave the matter there, that last phrase giving us something to think over. Like many of Dyson's whip-lash phrases, even those written beneath his satirical cartoons, the phrase first glances with humour, then rankles, then spreads as a thought in the mind. This challenge has come at the right time. Certain pioneering of the Australian mentality has been surprisingly achieved this year in the form of the novel, against tremendous odds, which have had, covering a vast varied circuit of time and place, "Coonardoo," "A House Is Built," and "Ultima Thule," all of whom emphatically praised abroad by critics like Arnold Bennett and Gerald Gould, proud to sign their names, as books in which Australia can rejoice. But the existence of such books only suggests the potentialities of others in all forms that have been driven underground. How long, as Will Dyson asks, will our serious authors have to look abroad for that chance of expression that Australia denies them?

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 4 January 1930

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

Note: the cartoon that Palmer refers to above, "Alone with his God", is now in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.  More details of the cartoon, though no reproduction unfortunately, can be found here.

2010 Miles Franklin Award Winner

It's not often that a literary story makes the front page of the newspaper but it did today wth the announcement last night that the winner of the 2010 Miles Franklin Award was Peter Temple for his novel Truth.

You can read about the shortlisted novels here, and, in particular about Temple's novel.

A crime novel?  Temple sounded bemused on the media reports today, but still funny.

Australian Bookcovers #215 - The C. J. Dennis Collection


The C. J. Dennis Collection edited by Garrie Hutchinson, 1987
Cover painting by Clarice Beckett
Lothian Publishing Company edition 1987

Note: subtitled "From his 'forgotten' writings" this is a collection of Dennis's works from The Herald newspaper.

Les Murray Television Interview

les_murray.jpg   Les Murray, one of Australia's premier living poets, was interviewed by Peter Thompson on ABC TV's "Talking Heads" this evening. You can read the transcript of the program here.

John Birmingham Interview

after_america.jpg    John Birmingham, Australian author of After America, blogger, and newspaper columnist has been interviewed by "The Australian Literature Review" weblog.

Do you read much Australian fiction, and do you have some favourites (other than your own)?

I'm a big fan of Matt Condon's work. I think every book he's written since The Pillow Fight has been worthy of being stamped with a big fat Novel of the Year stamp. He is the best literary novelist working in this country today. Of the genre writers, I can't go past one of Peter Corris's Cliff Hardy novels without immediately placing it within my possession. He seems to have written hundreds of these things, but they never lose their freshness and sizzle.

Is there any specific kind of fiction you would like to see more of in Australia?

Zombie-First Fleet-Time travel-crossovers. I don't know why we don't see more of these. The field is wide open, people!

Many books about fiction writing neglect character, or treat the topic haphazardly or in an overly structured way. What is your response to the suggestion that the book How to be a Man, by yourself and Dirk Flinthart, could be a useful tool for writers to use for thinking about developing fictional characters?

My response is flabbergasterment! That is the first time anybody has suggested that to me ever. But I guess when thinking it, about the way we build characters for novels, yeah, why not. I might even do it myself next time. The character question is an interesting one though. A lot of literary fiction seems to emphasize character, and in particular internal character struggles, over story. That's why I think, for the most part, literary fiction doesn't sell very well. People like stories. Having said that, of course, one of the most frequent criticisms of genre fiction is that the characters are all wooden and two-dimensional. And look, often that's true. But often it's not. I just finished a book by Peter V. Brett, The Desert Spear, the second in his demon war series. And instantly people are rolling their eyes and thinking, oh God, not another sub-Tolkien sword and sandal marathon. But they'd be wrong to think that. Pete's book is awesome, not just because of the really tight control he wields over a truly epic narrative, but because his command of character is every bit as good as any self-declared literary novelist.

Tom Keneally's Musical

It seems Tom Keneally continues to spread his literary wings, this time taking on the task of producing a musical.  Based on his book, The Great Shame, the musical has been written in collaboration with Larry Kirwan of Black 47, the Irish rock group. The two have been working on the project, on and off, for the past ten years.

"Transport" has played at the Irish Arts Centre in New York, but there doesn't appear to be any word about performances elsewhere.

Poem: Psychopomphiana by Zora Cross

(After reading an Anthology of Modern Verse.)

Soon Tennyson may have his dream come true --
That time would change the language so that he
Should find himself with Chaucer totally
Eclipsed -- a fossil curious to view,
Not understood save by the student-few.
Rhyme has gone out, and bored posterity
Dubs it B.F. (Before Freud), sic, B.C.
Verse has a rendezvous with all things new.
Nathless, vide: "Old soldiers never die,
They simply fade away." Old poets still 
Subconsciously in ghostly conclave meet,
As when, inserted like a Cyclop's eye,
A phrase or line filched from an ancient quill,
Illumes some modern poet's dark conceit.

First published in The Sunday Herald, 24 April 1949

Review: Keeping Faith by Roger Averill

keeping_faith.gif    Roger Averill
Keeping Faith
Transit Lounge Publishing, 231 pp.
Source: review copy
Review by Michael Freedman

Given its subject matter, Keeping Faith could have been, very easily, a very preachy novel. As it is, it wobbles its way over the increasingly narrow line between piety and nihilism like a drunk motorist attempting to pass a roadside breath test. For the most part, though, the author's efforts not to take sides in the debate make for an entertaining read, although some readers may be frustrated by his clear decision to remain completely objective. This is fiction, after all, not a history textbook.

In this reviewer's opinion, however, Averill has done extremely well with some difficult subject matter, particularly for a debut novel. Author of the acclaimed Boy He Cry: An Island Odyssey, an account of his 12 months on a remote island in Papua New Guinea, Averill brings much of his experience of poverty, religion, racism, and isolation to the character of Gracie, a missionary who battles most of the hardships Averill himself experienced in an attempt to bring religion to the Papuan locals. In doing so, Averill weaves into his story elements of hopelessness and despair, and does not pull punches in establishing the ever-present threat of violence in such a lifestyle.

There are two main characters in Keeping Faith - Gracie's brother Josh, who represents the agnostic aspect of the story, and Gracie herself, who epitomises the devoutly religious perspective. To those two could perhaps be added a third - Josh and Gracie's father, a laypreacher, who shapes the character of the young protagonists, but who by the end of the novel has lost touch with both of them. The novel is constructed around the central question of how they got to that point, and it is this that keeps the reader's interest.

Some interesting themes infuse the novel. Josh, as an adult, works as a nurse on a maternity ward, and was once churchgoing but has since lost his faith. It is not a coincidence that Josh, the skeptic, spends his adult life in a occupation in which the participants trust not to religion but to science, and are assimilated into a often bleak existence of observing both the start of life, and the end of it. But it is Gracie the missionary, who is extremely pious almost to the degree of being one-dimensional, who suffers extreme tragedy and heartbreak at the hands of the very people she has come to "save". And it is the father, the laypreacher, who is unable to directly comfort either of his adult children, who nevertheless provides the substance on which the family depends.

Above all, the novel is about a loss of innocence, of the security of childhood, and of faith. At times it rambles. And because the story is told from three different viewpoints, two of which are from the same character, it can often be a little confusing. But it is not disappointing, because it never shies away from its ultimate goal to tell a story, not to preach, but to show that in life, there are often no right answers. The novel seems to end at an almost random point, but perhaps in the end that actually is the point. Just like there are no right answers, there are often no happy, uplifting endings either. Sounds bleak, but at least it is real.

Australian Bookcovers #214 - Selected Verse of C. J. Dennis


Selected Verse of C. J. Dennis, 1950
Cover: "First Subscription Ball, Ballarat" by S. T. Gill
Angus and Robertson edition 1986

Benjamin Law Interview

family_law.jpgBenjamin Law may not be a name known to many in the Australian literary world, but he is the senior writer on Frankie magazine and has now published his first book, The Family Law, about his eccentric family. Marieke Hardy interviewed him for "Readings".
Law himself seems unfazed by the thought of splashing his dirty laundry across the page, and insists that nothing about the book is exaggerated. 'You don't have to manufacture drama in my family. Just put any two members in the same room, and it's like a chemistry experiment - something will happen. Or perhaps it's an experiment in zoology. Shark versus squid, that type of thing'.

Ben and I first became aware of each other's work when both regularly contributing to the gorgeous 'sharp, witty, everyday and anecdotal' Frankie magazine. Initially shy in correspondence, our online banter soon became freeform and relentless; a friendship blossoming through a desire to both impress and shock. Through our written work - not only for Frankie, but also, in Ben's case publications such as The Monthly and The Big Issue - we both enjoy a flirtation with what author David Sedaris refers to as 'the illusion of intimacy'. Allowing readers in to a degree that - to the observer - may appear dangerous to the author's privacy, or lack thereof.

But it's one thing for Law to reveal gasp-inducing facts about his own sex life and personal bathroom habits (to say any more would, I'm afraid, be what's known in the industry as a 'spoiler'), quite another altogether to drag in extended family members. Law's brothers and sisters get the full going-over in Family Law, and his mother and father seem to fare in similarly raw terms.

Poem: Of Rudyard Kipling by Edmund W. N. Anderson

He twangs a loud note on his harsh-stringed lyre,
   And startles all the world with riotous sound;
His rough-hewn verse is all ablaze with fire
   Of genius, bursting boldly through the bound
Set by convention to a man's desire;
   He scorns with easy steps to tread along
The gentle slope, but strives to clamber higher
   Up perilous passes of the Mount of Song.

He has not learned the art of Watson's grace,
   Nor yet the trick of Dobson's dainty touch;
   He has not Swinburne's skill of rhythm, nor such
Melodious mastery of word and phrase:
   But with the strong voice of his stalwart race
Imperially he sings the Empire's praise.

First published in The Queenslander, 27 July 1895

2010 Australian Book Industry Awards Shortlists

The shorlists for the Australian Book Industry Awards have now been released.  The lists are as follows:

Chain Bookseller of the Year
NSW/ACT Dymocks George St Sydney
Qld Dymocks Indooroopilly
SA/NT Dymocks Adelaide
Tas Dymocks Hobart
Vic Hill of Content
WA Dymocks Garden City (Booragoon)

Independent Bookseller of the Year

NSW/ACT Gleebooks
Qld Avid Reader
SA/NT Imprints Booksellers
Tas Fullers Bookshop Hobart
Vic Readings Books Music Film Carlton
WA Bookcaffe

Specialist Bookseller of the Year
NSW/ACT The Cookery Book
Qld Folio Books
SA/NT ALS Library Services
Tas Ellison Hawker Bookshop
Vic Books for Cooks
WA Boffins Bookshop

Bookseller Marketing Campaign of the Year
Better Read Than Dead, for Year of the Book and others
Big W, for The Big Book Bonanza
Fullers Bookshop Hobart, for 10 Rules of Rock & Roll
Pages & Pages Booksellers Mosman, for Revolutionary Road
Shearers Bookshop, for The Truth Hurts

Small Publisher of the Year
Black Dog Books
Black Inc.
New Holland Publishers
Scribe Publications
UNSW Press

Publisher of the Year
Allen & Unwin
Murdoch Books
Penguin Australia
Random House Australia
The Text Publishing Company

Distributor of the Year
Alliance Distribution Services
Harper Entertainment Distribution Services
Macmillan Distribution Services
Random House Australia
United Book Distributors

Publisher Marketing Campaign of the Year
Allen & Unwin, for Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey
Murdoch Books, for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, written by Stieg Larsson
Random House Australia, for Fallen, written by Lauren Kate
Simon & Schuster Australia, for Grug, written by Ted Prior
The Text Publishing Company, for The Women in Black, written by Madeleine St John

International Success of the Year
Allen & Unwin, for The Slap
Hinkler Books, for Dora the Explorer
Hinkler Books, for Simply Success
UNSW Press, for Fishes of the Open Ocean

Illustrated Book of the Year
A Life on Pittwater, written by Susan Duncan, published by Random House Australia
Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion, written by Stephanie Alexander, published by Penguin Australia
Thai Street Food, written by David Thompson, published by Penguin Australia
The Mind and Times of Reg Mombassa, written by Murray Waldron, published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
The Songs of Sapa, written by Luke Nguyen, published by Murdoch Books

Biography of the Year
Affection: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Intimacy, written by Krissy Kneen, published by The Text Publishing Company
Bart: My Life, written by J.B. Cummings, published by Pan Macmillan
Cadel Evans: Close to Flying, written by Cadel Evans, published by Hardie Grant
Charles Kingsford Smith and Those Magnificent Men, written by Peter FitzSimons, published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Hey Mum, What's a Half-Caste?, written by Lorraine McGee-Sippel, published by Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation

General Non-Fiction Book of the Year
Australians: Origins to Eureka, written by Thomas Keneally, published by Allen & Unwin
Bendable Learnings, written by Don Watson, published by Random House Australia
Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, edited by Nicholas Jose, published by Allen & Unwin
Piano Lessons, written by Anna Goldsworthy, published by Black Inc.
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty, written by Peter Singer, published by The Text Publishing Company

Book of the Year for Younger Children (age range 0 to 8 years)
Baby Wombat's Week, written by Jackie French & illustrated by Bruce Whatley, published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
My Chicken Goes to Paris, written & illustrated by Leigh Hobbs, published by Allen & Unwin
Running with the Horses, written & illustrated by Alison Lester, published by Penguin Australia
The Terrible Plop, written by Ursula Dubosarsky & illustrated by Andrew Joyner, published by Penguin Australia

Book of the Year for Older Children (age range 8 to 14 years)

Liar, written by Justine Larbalestier, published by Allen & Unwin
Parlour Games for Modern Families, written by Myfanwy Jones & Spiri Tsintziras, published by Scribe Publications
The Billionaire's Curse, written by Richard Newsome, published by The Text Publishing Company
The Ranger's Apprentice: Halt's Peril, written by John Flanagan, published by Random House Australia

Literary Fiction Book of the Year
Dog Boy, written by Eva Hornung, published by The Text Publishing Company
Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey, published by Allen & Unwin
Lovesong, written by Alex Miller, published by Allen & Unwin
Ransom, written by David Malouf, published by Random House Australia
The World Beneath, written by Cate Kennedy, published by Scribe Publications

General Fiction Book of the Year
Heartless, written by Tasma Walton, published by University of Queensland Press
The Cattleman's Daughter, written by Rachael Treasure, published by Penguin Australia
The Death of Bunny Munro, written by Nick Cave, published by The Text Publishing Company
The Five Greatest Warriers, written by Matthew Reilly, published by Pan Macmillan
Truth, written by Peter Temple, published by The Text Publishing Company

Newcomer of the Year (debut writer)
Piano Lessons, written by Anna Goldsworthy, published by Black Inc.
Red Dust, written by Fleur McDonald, published by Allen & Unwin
Siddon Rock, written by Glenda Guest, published by Random House Australia
The Weight of Silence, written by Catherine Therese, published by Hachette Australia

Book of the Year 2010

Australians: Origins to Eureka, written by Thomas Keneally, published by Allen & Unwin
Bart:My Life, written by J.B. Cummings, published by Pan Macmillan
Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey, published by Allen & Unwin
Ransom, written by David Malouf, published by Random House Australia
Truth, written by Peter Temple, published by The Text Publishing Company

The winners in each category will be announced on 30th June in Sydney.

Australian Bookcovers #213 - C. J. Dennis A Collection of Verse


C.J. Dennis A Collection of Verse, 2005
Cover by Hal Gye
National Library of Australia edition 2005

Lauren Fuge Interview

when_courage_came_to_call.jpg  Lauren Fuge was a 14-year-old schoolgirl when her query proposal to Random House Australia produced a request to see the rest of her manuscript. Two years later her first novel, When Courage Came to Call, has been published and she has now been interviewed by Louise Schwatzkoff for "The Sydney Morning Herald".

For Fuge, writing provides an escape from mundane reality. While her friends wallpaper their bedrooms with music posters and celebrity photographs, Fuge covers hers with plot lines and imaginary maps.

"Real life isn't terrible but it's a bit boring," she says. "I want some more excitement so I read and I write."

Along with her school books, her shelves are jammed with fantasies and war fiction. "I'm a sucker for fantasy worlds. I love them so much," she says.

"I always liked reading because it was an escape but then I realised I didn't have to be stuck in other people's adventures. I got the urge to do it myself."

When Courage Came to Call is not a fantasy, though it takes place in an imaginary universe. The characters are soldiers, rebels and criminals, wielding rifles rather than magic wands. Fuge acknowledges a debt to John Marsden's young adult classic Tomorrow When the War Began. She also drew on history classes about World War I and newspaper stories about criminal gangs.

The story is gripping but clearly not the work of a mature author. The political tensions between warring nations are explained with clunky simplicity. The characters - except for the narrator and the villain - are loosely sketched. Fuge tends to describe their attributes rather than allow them to emerge through the action. Still, the same could be said of many an adult writer.

For all the detail about explosions, weaponry and military hierarchies, she confesses her research process was somewhat haphazard. She wrote every night after dinner and homework, then checked the details later. It took two months to finish.

"When I started, I was going to set it in World War II but after about 100 words, I decided not to. It would mean I had to do research and I'm lazy, so I just decided to make up a new world."

2010 Kibble and Dobbie Encouragement Awards

The Nita Kibble Literary Award is an annual literary prize for the best Australian book of fiction or nonfiction classifiable as 'life writing' for Australian women writers.  The 2010 prize has been awarded to Shirley Walker for her memoir The Ghost at the Wedding.

The 2010 Dobbie Encouragement Award, which is for a first published work by a female writer, was awarded to Deborah Forst for her novel The Book of Emmett.

Poem: The Poet by Arthur A. D. Bayldon

The poet sows his goodly seed
   Along the tracts of wrong;
And clasps around each kingly deed
   The trappings of his song.
Fresh tidings of old truths he spreads
   From jaded clime to clime.
The ceaseless spinning of the threads
   That weave the wool of Time
Is heard on that colossal height
   On which he sits alone,
Unfolded by the blinding light
   That streams from the Unknown.

First published in The Queenslander, 12 September 1896

Reprint: Mary Gilmore. An Appreciation by Marjorie Quinn

Once I was at a gathering of 400 poets! Is it necessary to add that it was in the land of dollars and skyscrapers, where everything, from depression to poets, is produced in large quantities? It was a meeting of the Poetry Club in New York. A fierce battle of words was being waged between the adherents of the rhyme and metre school and the exponents of "vers libre." The champion of the vers librists was that large and brilliant lady, Amy Lowell, descendant of James Russell Lowell. Someone made claim that the Bible was written in free verse. Thin, pale little Padraic Colum, exiled from his native Ireland, jumped up and shouted earnestly, The Bible, he declared, was rhythmical prose! Much argument followed. From out the din Miss Lowell was heard declaiming that there were only two great American poets -- Whitman and Poe. (I remember feeling a heartache for poor, simple, neglected Longfellow.)

I can see Amy Lowell now, with her charming, soft-featured face rising above a huge body; with a broad forehead and keen eyes that dominated that large assembly as she looked with good-natured tolerance upon one of her disciples, a bizarre-looking lady, who claimed that she liked free verse because, by its odd arrangement of lines, it made such pretty patterns on the page!

But Amy Lowell, in spite of her fondness for free verse -- probably her adherents would say because of it -- was a really big woman, mentally as well as physically. She had a fine intellect, ready and brilliant wit, broad vision. In her mentality this outstanding figure in the poetic world of America seems to me to compare with Mary Gilmore, whom Dr. Mackaness considers "the most outstanding woman in the world of Australian letters." Mary Gilmore has a man's grip of things. With this she also has the broad vision and the all-embracing woman sympathy.

Her many poems gush from her eternal fount of sympathy, the expression of her outlook on life and its varied interests. At times it is but a little song that mirrors a mood or crystallises a passing thought. But always they are sincere: always they are human. There is the everyday, happy woman in "Marri'd" (one of her best known poems) :

      An' flushln' all at once
         An' smilin' just so sweet.
      An' bein' real proud
         The house is lookin' neat.

Simple, but the all in all of life for many a woman when her "man is comin' home."


Every subject beckons her waiting pen. To take some titles: "A Ringbarked Tree," "The Lament of the Lubra," "Yuan Kang Su," "The Dead Harlot," "Life," "Linen for Pillows," "The Rue Tree," "Horses of the Mind." She writes as easily of the flight of swans as of the death of love; of poets, of soldiers; of trees and aborigines, of nuns in their cloister, and with ready jollity, as in "The Tilted Cart." But it may be that she will be remembered best as the champion of the vanishing race, as in "The Aboriginals":

      Who is this that cometh here,
      Bent and bowed, and in the sere.
      Who is this whose ravaged frame
      Seems to speak of wrong and shame?
      Child of people we betrayed,
      Name him man and yet a shade.

She has a deep understanding of the aboriginal, whom she had opportunity to observe in her girlhood days; a fine understanding and a feeling for the music of their place-names -- "A Song of Koonewarrah," "The Children of Mirrabooka," "Malebo."

Some seven volumes of verse she has published, nor are they slim volumes. It seems that when a thing enchants her, when a thing interests her, she must set her thoughts of it to verse. "Hound of the Road" (prose) and a cookery book she has also published, and is now engaged on her "Recollections."  

Mary Gilmore's birthday falls on the 16th of this month. The Fellowship of Australian Writers, of which she was a founder -- its aims are very dear to her heart -- is remembering her on that date.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 August 1933

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

Words Out and About: Little Lonsdale Street

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Mural in the food court at the base of the Telstra headquarters, Little Lonsdale Street entrance, Melbourne.

This part of the mural shows a man holding a verse from C.J. Dennis's Sentimental Bloke. I'm not sure if the man to the right is supposed to be a portrait of Dennis as it doesn't look much like him.

The area of this food court is currently undergoing renovation and I'm not sure if this mural will survive. As a result I had to take a photo with my phone, hence the poorish quality.

Randolph Stow (1935-2010)

The expatriate West Australian author, Randolph Stow, has died at his home in England at the age of 74.

Stow was born in Geraldton, Western Australia, in 1935. He followed his education at the University of WA with lecturing in English Literature at the Universities of Adelaide, WA and Leeds. He worked on an aboriginal mission as an anthropoligist and as a patrol officer in the Trobriand Islands. He had lived in England since 1966.

In 1958 he won the second Miles Franklin Award for his novel To the Islands, and in 1979 he was presented with the Patrick While Literary Award.

Many tributes to the author are already starting to appear with a number of people commenting on Stephen Romei's piece on The Australian newspaper's literary blog, "A Pair of Ragged Claws".

Australian Bookcovers #212 - Random Verse by C. J. Dennis


Random Verse by C. J. Dennis, 1952
Hallcraft Publishing edition, 1952

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