August 2010 Archives

Mr. Bad Example

I love it when I read blogs out of the US and find people complaining about the price of books there: $12.99 for a paperback! $26.99 for a hardback!  That sort of thing.  For those who do the complaining have a look at this interview in "The Courier-Mail" with Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter series of crime novels.  Check out the last line, containing the price of his latest novel in Australia.  I think my hardback copy of The Dome by Stephen King cost me just on fifty dollars, and that was, what?, 10,000 pages or so.

Christos Tsiolkas has been touring the UK promoting The Slap, and appears to have created a bit of a stir at the Edinburgh festival by complaining that European literature is "dry and academic, and not in the best way, but in a cheap, shitey way".  



2010 World Fantasy Awards Nominees

The nominees for the 2010 World Fantasy Awards (for works published during 2009) have been released.

Of interest to Australians are the following nominees:


"Sea-Hearts" by Margo Lanagan


Eclipse Three edited by Jonathan Strahan

Special Award - Professional

Jonathan Strahan for editing anthologies

The awards will be presented at World Fantasy Convention 36, to be held in Columbus Ohio, USA, October 28-31, 2010.

2010 CBCA Book of the Year Awards

The winners of the 2010 CBCA Book of the Year Awards have been announced. These awards honour the best in Australian books for children.

Older Readers Book of the Year
Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen (Penguin Group Australia)

Honour Books
The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke (Allen & Unwin)
A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard (Allen & Unwin)

Younger Readers Book of the Year
Darius Bell And The Glitter Pool by Odo Hirsch (Allen & Unwin)

Honour Books
Pearl Verses The World by Sally Murphy (Walker Books)
Running With The Horses by Alison Lester (Viking, Penguin Group Australia)

Early Childhood Book of the Year
Bear And Chook By The Sea by Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay (Lothian Children's Books, Hachette)

Honour Books
Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood (Little Hare Books)
Kip by Christina Booth (Windy Hollow Books)

Picture Book of the Year
The Hero Of Little Street by Gregory Rogers (Allen & Unwin)

Honour Books
Fox And Fine Feathers by Narelle Oliver (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia)
Isabella's Garden by Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool (Walker Books)

The Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Australian Backyard Explorer by Peter Macinnis (National Library of Australia)

Honour Books
Maralinga: The Anangu Story by The Yalata And Oak Valley Communities (Allen & Unwin)
Polar Eyes: A Journey to Antarctica by Tanya Patrick and Nicholas Hutcheson (CSIRO)

Australian Bookcovers #224 - Monkey Grip by Helen Garner


Monkey Grip by Helen Garner, 1977
Cover photograph: Noni Hazlehurst as Nora, from the film adaptation of the novel
Penguin edition 1983

2010 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards Shortlists

The shortlists for the 2010 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards have now been released.


Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America, Penguin Group (Australia)
Brian Castro, The Bath Fugues, Giramondo Publishing Company
J.M. Coetzee, Summertime, Random House Australia
Steven Lang, 88 Lines About 44 Women, Penguin Group (Australia)
Alex Miller, Lovesong, Allen & Unwin

Emerging Queensland Author - Manuscript Award

Matthew Lamb, Down to the River
Nikki McWatters, The Desert of Paradise
Noel Mengel, RPM

Unpublished Indigenous Writer - Arts Queensland David Unaipon Award

Tjanara Goreng-Goreng, The Red Earth
Jeanine Leane, Purple Threads
Shawn Wondunna-Foley, Dingo finds a friend

Non-Fiction Book Award

Krissy Kneen, Affection, The Text Publishing Company
Mary-Rose MacColl, The Birth Wars, University of Queensland Press
Alasdair McGregor, Grand Obsessions: The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, Penguin Group (Australia)
Mark Tredinnick, The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir, University of Queensland Press
Brenda Walker, Reading by Moonlight: How books saved a life, Penguin Group (Australia)

History Book - Faculty of Arts, University of Queensland Award

Bain Attwood, Possession: Batman's Treaty and the Matter of History, Melbourne University Publishing Limited
Maria Hill, Diggers and Greeks: the Australian campaigns in Greece and Crete, University of New South Wales Press
Ian Hoskins, Sydney Harbour: A history, University of New South Wales Press
Grace Karskens, The Colony: A History of Early Sydney, Allen & Unwin
Thomas Keneally, Australians: Origins to Eureka, Allen & Unwin

Children's Book - Mary Ryan's Award

Bronwyn Bancroft, Why I Love Australia, Little Hare Books
Glenda Millard, Isabella's Garden, Illustrated by Rebecca Cool, Walker Books Australia
Glenda Millard, All the Colours of Paradise, Illustrated by Stephen Michael King, HarperCollinsPublishers Aust Pty Limited
Sally Murphy, Toppling, Illustrated by Rhian Nest James, Walker Books Australia
Narelle Oliver, Fox and Fine Feathers, Omnibus Books

Young Adult Book Award

Phillip Gwynne, Swerve, Penguin Group (Australia)
Justine Larbalestier, Liar, Allen & Unwin
Melina Marchetta, The Piper's Son, Penguin Group (Australia)
Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan, Illustrated by Keith Thompson, Penguin Group (Australia)
Richard Yaxley, Drink the Air, Richard Yaxley

Science Writer Award

Elizabeth Finkel, "Black harvest" (Cosmos: The Science of Everything - Issue 27), Luna Media
Elizabeth Finkel, "The trouble with genes" (Cosmos: The Science of Everything - Issue 31), Luna Media
Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change, Allen & Unwin
Sonya Pemberton, Catching Cancer, December Films and Pemberton Films
Julian Pepperell, Fishes of the open ocean: a natural history and illustrated guide, Illustrated by Guy Harvey, University of New South Wales Press

Poetry Collection - Arts Queensland Judith Wright Calanthe Award

Peter Boyle, Apocrypha, Vagabond Press
Jennifer Maiden, Pirate Rain, Giramondo Publishing Company
Les Murray, Taller When Prone, Black Inc.
Maria Takolander, Ghostly Subjects, Salt Publishing

Australian Short Story Collection - Arts Queensland Steele Rudd Award

Peter Goldsworthy, Gravel, Penguin Group (Australia)
Karen Hitchcock, Little White Slips, Picador
Thomas Shapcott, Gatherers and Hunters, Wakefield Press
Archie Weller, The Window Seat, University of Queensland Press

Literary or Media Work Advancing Public Debate - The Harry Williams Award

Annabel Crabb, Quarterly Essay 34: Stop at Nothing - The Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull, Black Inc.
Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change, Allen & Unwin
Marcia Langton, "The resource curse", Griffith Review
Mary-Rose MacColl, The Birth Wars, University of Queensland Press
Michael McKenna, "Shocked to the core", The Australian, 23 June 2009

Film Script - Screen Queensland Award

Shirley Barrett, South Solitary, Macgowan Films Pty Ltd
David Michôd, Animal Kingdom, Porchlight Films Pty Ltd
David Roach, Beneath Hill 60, The Silence Productions Pty Ltd

Drama Script (Stage) Award

Daniel Keene, Duets
Joanna Murray-Smith, Rockabye, Currency Press Pty Ltd
Melissa Reeves, Furious Mattress
Sven Swenson, The Bitterling
Rick Viede, Whore

Television Script - QUT Creative Industries Award

Glen Dolman, Hawke, The Film Company
Peter Duncan, Rake Episode 1 "R v Murray", Essential Media and Entertainment Pty Ltd
Peter Gawler, A Model Daughter: The Killing of Caroline Byrne, Screentime Pty Ltd
John Misto, Sisters of War, Australian Broadcasting Corporation/Pericles Film Productions Pty Ltd

The winners will be announced on August 31st.

Poem: Tolstoi by Mary Hannay Foott

A shabby volume on the ledge;
   An idle hand that drew it forth;
Like him who slumbered in the sedge,
   There dwelt the Prophet of the North.

Wayfarer! --- Erst with heavy tread
   The paths of Story wont to trace---
What glamour on thine eyes is shed;
   That fain thou lingerest in the place?

Methought the Masters all were gone,
   Or quenched their fires --- by age bestowed;  
Yet now, behold, a light hath shone;
   Once more a message is bestowed!

From shores held sterile there hath sailed
   A galleon filled with richest freight.
O truthful picture slow unveiled!
   O precious word long untranslate!

We gazed --- yet scarce might understand.
   We hearkened --- to the voice alone.
We praised the labour of his hand,
   And still his heart remained unknown.

We drank with him the joy of Spring;  
   In Cossack foray learnt to ride;
With him we heard the gipsies sing---
   The cannon by the Euxine tide.

Then --- sleepless in the hour when none
   Save humankind unslumbering lie---
When stars are pallid and the sun
   Unlit, and weaklings faint and die--  

With sudden skill we read the rune---
   All tremulous and yet elate---
"Dread thou no dole; crave thou no boon;
   Be Duty unto thee as Fate!"

First published in The Queenslander, 1 June 1889

Reprint: The Australian Muse by E. M. England

It seems that we have to go through a long experimental stage in order to find ourselves. This is only natural in a nation composed of so many diverse stocks as ours. But out of all the chaos the national muse will emerge at last, smiling and serene, for, above all other things, the Australian is intent upon all that he does. From the galloping rhymes which stirred our fathers we tend now to swing to the other extreme. Most of our poets are busy studying style and the lore of other countries, and in that we can only be imitative. Take the work of Dulcie Deamer and Bettie Riddell, both of whom spend much energy upon classical legend. The legend of the Maori and the aboriginal should lend themselves to rhyme as much as the classical myths. In the abstract the mournful aboriginal and the courageous Maori are poetical -- equally with the noble Red Man so lauded by American poets. Especially the Maori. His appearance, his prowess in war, his mysterious origin -- all these should provide much scope. But apparently our poets are left cold. Every wild race has its yearnings and ideals -- emotions often incomprehensible to the white mind, because the dark man cannot or will not explain them. If we could contrive his unity with nature, in addition to our book-learning, what poets might arise!

The Great Out-of-Doors.

This intangible something is every where at hand in the bush, but, unfortunately, poets tend to congregate in towns. Any morning the essence of many secrets can be felt rising and wreathing about one like incense in the great outdoors. It seems to be waiting for the eye and the ear that can understand. Many bushmen feel it, but they could not express it in words. It is the magic that would emanate from a very old woman, who retained the beauty of youth until her death -- a "She" incarnate. Who is going to seize upon the weird glamour and sing of it? If we are ever going to have any characteristic poetry of our own it must strike the happy medium between the old galloping rhymes and the modern tendency to stray into other pastures. In the great area of this continent there must lie plenty of scope for hundreds of pen-points, hundreds of bards. We are ready to enjoy any type of good poetry, but it seems inevitable that the poet who will be selected as our national one will be a man or woman who inter- prets the message of the Australian landscape. From the foam of the Pacific, the sands of the desert, the opal-tinted ranges, the mines, the wells of oil and water, the grassy plains, his inspiration must come. And that it will come there is no doubt.

Foreign Inspiration.

In the meantime it is of little use to complain that our poets turn to other countries for their subject matter. If they live in towns they cannot understand the true Australia any more than a man in New York or London or Ontario could fully grasp the American, English, or Canadian countryside. Perhaps, in their ambition and thirst for knowledge, they read too much. There may be such a thing as cramming, even in regard to poetry. Otherwise, why do Mabel Forrest, Dorothy MacKellar, and Myra Morris persistently introduce foreign climes, Eastern pageantry. Why are the Celtic mystics so much felt in the poems of L. Lucas and S. Neilson, the classical influence in Z. Cross and H. M'Crae? Even Edward Vidler himself, in his exquisite little play, "The Rose of Ravenna," went to old and mellow times for his plot. Still, all this is excusable. Poetry is universal, and all who run may read. A poet cannot be bound any more than a bird. Cage a feathered songster, and the best of its songs are mute -- certainly the fresh, wild ecstasy goes. It is useless to tell a poet that he must turn this way or that way for his subject matter. It only hampers and embarrasses him.

And it is not a scrap of use to be ashamed of being Australian. In the first place, why should we? It was with mingled feelings that I read in the "Galmahra" of October last the following sentiments re Jack Lindsay's publication, "Vision":

"It represents one of the landmarks of Australian literature, for it crystallised the growing revolt of the younger literary generation both against the shackles of 'local colour,' and against the too-convenient Swinburnian dress that Australian verse had, for the most part, worn since the days of Adam Lindsay Gordon and Kendall."

The Place of Local Colour.

Let that "too-convenient dress" "go by all means, but why, in the name of reason, should we be averse to "local colour"? If one takes up a book of verse by a poet from South Africa, does one hope to read of larks and dells and fens? No, one probably finds, and certainly hopes to, a thing like "Zulu Girl":

When in the sun the hot red acres smoulder,
   Down where the sweating gang its labour piles,
A girl throws down her hoe and from her shoulder,
   Unslings her child tormented by the flies.
She takes him to a ring of shadow pooled
By thorn-trees; purpled with the death of ticks.

-something that breathes of veldt and kopje and vast space. Any Australian ought to be equally typical of his country, or, if he is not, wishful of being so. Otherwise he is denouncing that which should be nearest and dearest to him. If he is reluctant to be Australian, then what is he going to be?

While oversea critics may label our work as doubtful because of its very atmosphere, I am confident they respect us all the more as they watch us developing along our own lines; watch the Australian--

Above the level desert's marge
Looming in his aloofness large while
From his life's monotony
He lifts a subtle melody.

to quote Arthur Adams' very true picture of "The Australian."

We are in a state of transition. Not that the stockman, sheep, or cattle have disappeared from our landscape. But other things have come as well. To our old interests new ones have been added, so that poets, as well as ordinary people, have new and universal themes. All we have to do is to be patient, and to encourage, to have faith in our poets and ourselves. It is very certain that there is light ahead.

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 8 September 1928

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

2010 Ned Kelly Award Shortlists

The shortlists for the 2010 Ned Kelly Awards have now been announced.  These awards honor the best Australian writing within the crime genre during the previous year.  They are presented by the Crime Writers Association of Australia.

True Crime

Peter Doyle, Crooks Like Us, Historic Houses Trust
Kathy Marks, Pitcairn: Paradise Lost, Harper Collins
Robert  M.Kaplan, Medical Murder, Allen & Unwin

Best First Fiction

Andrew Croome, Document Z, Allen & Unwin
Mark Dapin, King of the Cross, Macmillan
Robin Adair, Death and the Running Patterer, Penguin

Best Fiction

Lenny Bartulin, The Black Russian, Scribe Publications
Michael Robotham, Bleed For Me, Hatchette
Garry Disher, Wyatt, Text

SH Harvey Short Story Award

Lucy Sussex, "The Fountain of Justice"
Zane Lovitt, "Leaving the Fountainhead"
Robert Goodman, "The Travertine Fountain"

Lifetime Achievement

Peter Doyle

The winners will be announced on Friday September 3rd during the Melbourne Writers Festival.


Robust, Ribald and Rude Verse in Australia
selected and annotated by Bill Wannan, 1972
Cover by Norman Lindsay
Lansdowne Press edition 1972

Let's Not Kid Ourselves...

...postings has been pretty lightweight around here of late.  For months probably.

You can basically put this down to the work I'm doing helping to organise Aussiecon 4 which is currently occupying my thoughts for just about every spare waking hour, and quite a number of the sleeping ones as well.  In three weeks' time I'll be onto the last day of the convention and staring at the rest of my life when I never do this again; which is something to look forward to.

The activity hasn't been overly unpleasant, just time-consuming to an extent that I had hoped wouldn't occur.  But we make our choices, and we take our chances etc etc.

Don't expect much here for the next three to four weeks.  I'll be back in better shape later in the year.  Just for now, I'm simply trying to hang in there.

Poem: Ballad of the Bards by "Wendover"

"Let others traverse sea and land, and toll through various climes, I turn the world round with my hand, reading these poets' rhymes." -- LONGFELLOW.

Grant me, ye bards of olden times,
   Of these thy melodies,
That I may give unto these rhymes
The charm which bears your mellow chimes
   Across the centuries.

Give me of this that I may sing--    
   In pleasure hunting days--  
Of the pure pleasures that you bring
To him who listens, wondering,
   Enraptured with thy lays.

There is no theme of this our earth,
   Or of the heavens above,
But that ye sang me from my birth;
Betimes in sorrow, oft in mirth;
   Of vengeance or of love.

Ye sing tbe future, and I see
   With thy far-reaching eyes
The bright days in the years to be
Wherein man shall, unsullied, free,
   To his true stature rise.

Ye sing the hate that brings unrest;
   The love that tenderly,
From realms on high, to many a breast
Comes soothingly, a welcome guest,
   And sings of Arcady.

Of war ye sing, and then of peace,
   And back the soldiers roam;
Of Life's long marchings -- Death's release --
Of Voice that bids our marchings cease,
   And bugles sounding "Home."

Thus in my heart the melody
   Is ringing, and I pray
That never may the hollow glee
Which masks the suff'ring debauchee
   E'er tempt my thoughts away.

But as the years the ages throng,
   And the long aeons fly,
Oh, still may thy "undying song"
Uplift tbe right, stamp out the wrong,
   And lead men to the sky.

First published in The Queenslander, 28 May 1898

Desperados Under the Eaves

"The Rap Sheet" weblog is reporting that Crimespree Magazine has announced its shortlists in three categories for their People's Choice awards.  In the category of Best Book in an Ongoing Series 2009, we find Shatter by Michael Robotham and Truth by Peter Temple. The winners in each category wil be announced at Bouchercon being held in San Francisco, October 14-17.

A couple of weeks back I mentioned a forgotten Australian crime novel identified by the "International Noir Fiction" weblog.  Now they have written up Cat Catcher by Caroline Shaw, saying that it fits "into the hard-boiled detective genre".

Angela Meyer has been at the Byron Bay Writers' Festival, talking to the likes of Bret Easton Ellis.  She kept a weblog diary.

Ampersand Duck is in New Zealand applying her printing skills to various projects such as a poem in the shape of a banjo and a poem by Les Murray called At the Opera.  Fantastic stuff.

Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, has given such a rave review to The Man who Loved Children by Christina Stead that the book's US publishers have rushed out a new edition.

Reprint: Letter to the Editor: Books and Bookshops by Nettie Palmer

Sir, - Having been startled, not for the first time, by the gaps in Brisbane bookshops I must ask why this state of affairs is allowed to exist. If as I believe, a city is to be judged by what its people read, then Brisbane is not getting a chance. On this occasion the book I sent for was Katherine Prichard's "Working Bullocks." It proved to be unprocurable in Brisbane. This was not an obscure book, suited only to learned or exotic tastes, nor an old book, liable to be out of print. It was very favourably reviewed in Brisbane papers about two months ago. Further, it has been included in the monthly list of books recommended by Australasian booksellers. After this, it is hardly necessary to mention that the book has been reviewed by overseas papers like the "Times Literary Supplement," with conspicuous approval, and has attracted great attention in the chief Australian weeklies. Its absence from bookshops and libraries in Brisbane is not to be explained in the same way as my experience last year, when it was similarly impossible to get a copy of any of W. B. Yeats' poems, written during the last 20 years. Now Yeats is a poet of international fame, and a Nobel prize winner, yet for Brisbane he has ceased to exist. Katherine Prichard is a contemporary Australian writer, of admitted distinction, yet her latest book is "unprocurable in Brisbane." Do our booksellers really think that literature is a kind of drapery, and that we should not want anything except what is exposed for sale in the shop windows!  

I am, sir. &c.,  


Caloundra, March 25    

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 31 March 1927

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


The Big Chariot by Charmian Clift and George Johnston, 1953
Angus and Robertson edition 1953

Alexandra Adornetto Interview

halo.jpg  Alexandra Adornetto came to prominence back in 2006 when she signed a two-book deal with HarperCollins as a 14-year old. Now with three books in the original series completed she has started a new young adult trilogy, this time featuring angels. As the book is published in Australia the now 18-year-old is interviewed by Blanche Clark for "The Courier-Mail".
But Adornetto has cracked a tougher market, signing a $100,000-plus publishing deal in the US for her young adult trilogy about angels. The first book, Halo, is out tomorrow in Australia and she will embark on a US tour to promote the book next month.

"I had so many people saying to me, 'It's very, very hard to get published in the US' and I thought, 'OK, maybe in a couple of years, I'm just going to slog away at it'," Adornetto says.

"And then it happened so quickly."

Last year her publisher at HarperCollins, Lisa Berryman, sent the Halo manuscript and a synopsis for the next two books to US literary agent Jill Grinberg, who is based in New York.

Grinberg represents the cream of Australian young adult authors: John Marsden, Garth Nix and Melina Marchetta, to name a few.

"Jill Grinberg called me up at the end of last year and said, 'I think you should come over to meet with some publishers'," Adornetto says. "I did my last exam and literally got on a plane and went to the US."

Five days later she was signed to Feiwel and Friends, an imprint with Macmillan. I ask Berryman later how significant this deal is.

"It's unreal. It's extraordinary," she says. "Alex is going off to this huge author tour and she is covering most of the US. This is something they are not doing for everyone any more because it's so expensive, so it's a coup on every level."

The book has also been sold to Atom in the UK, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's publisher.

Poem: The Queanbeyan Age by J.G.

We won't give up the brave old AGE
   That's served us long and true;
We'll not forsake a good old friend
   For a doubtful one that's new.

Let others laud the new upstart,
   In faulty prose and doggerel rhyme;
We'll still stand by the good old AGE,
   For it has stood the test of time.

We'll not forsake the good old AGE,
   That valiant deeds has done;
That many a battel's fought for us,
   And noble victories won.  

We won't give up the good old AGE,
   That's won itself renown :
It aided men of worth to fame,
   And put vain upstarts down.

Then rally round the good old AGE,
   That's fought with might and main
For interests that are dear to us,
   And will do the same again.

First published in The Queanbeyan Age, 7 June 1879

Hasten Down the Wind

Wondering what's going on in the world of Australian science fiction and fantasy?  Then check out Rich Horton's review of four recent Australian anthologies in Fantasy Magazine. "I'll state upfront that not one of these books fully satisfies. Each is ambitious in its own way, and each has some nice work, but across the board I'd say there are [too] many minor stories, and indeed occasionally some very weak work. But for all that, there is, as I said, some nice work in each of these books: Let's celebrate that."  Which is about standard for most short story anthologies.

If you've ever wondered how best to reply to those who don't like your review of their book, then this is probably as good a way as any.

If you live in Australia, and read books, you're probably aware that that the country has a regulation in place that allows Australian publsihers the right to produce an Australian edition of a book if it has not been made available to Australian readers within 30 days of its release overseas.  But did you know that the same regulation does not apply to ebooks?  Andrew Kelly of the "Black Dog" blog does, and isn't happy about it.  I have a feeling that this fits into the same stupid bucket that allows for region-coding of DVDs so that some films available around the world aren't released in Australia until months after their premieres elsewhere.

With the Melbourne Writers Festival starting up soon (August 27th) you need to be reading Estelle and Angela in the associated blog.  How else will you know what is really going on?

Scott Westerfeld's follow-up to his wonderful steampunk YA novel Leviathan will be titled Behemoth, which sounds perfectly apt.  But did you know that the audiobook of the new title will be released the same day as the print version?  Publishing sure is a strange place these days.

Reprint: Review of "The Banjo's" Poems by Anonymous

Mr. A.B. Paterson is modest with much right to be otherwise, which is more than can be said of many poets. The title which he has chosen for his book "The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses" -- is as unpretentious a designation as we have seen for a collection of really admirable poems. In his preface to the volume Rolf Boldrewood expresses the opinion that "this collection comprises the best bush ballads written since the death of Lindsay Gordon." We are prepared to go a little further and say that even Gordon is less widely known in Australia than Paterson is -- not as Paterson, certainly, but as "The Banjo," the pen name under which the talented author of "The Man from Snowy River" has hitherto hidden his identity. It strikes one at first as somewhat strange that in his book Mr. Paterson omits to mention his identity with "The Banjo" ; but on consideration it becomes apparent that the man who wrote "The Geebung Polo Club," "Clancy of the Overflow," and "The Man from Ironbark" needs no other introduction whatever name he may afterwards choose to write under. There is no mistaking the swing of his verses. Perhaps no Australian poet has a wider local fame than Mr. Paterson. The four bush ballads just mentioned, not to speak of others, are to be heard all over Australia -- in every station hut from Cape York to Wilson's Promontory, from Cape Palmerston to Shark Bay -- wherever the white man has settled the swinging rhyme of "The Man from Snowy River" is familiar to every one who has ever spent a night at a camp fire. Mr. Paterson has done well to give this fine piece of composition the place of honour. Though it is not easy to discriminate between several of his best poems, there is no mistaking the grandeur of his narration of how the Snowy River rider turned back the mob of wild horses when every other man, including the famous "Clancy of the Overflow," had fain confessed himself beaten. This man from Snowy River, though only "a stripling on a small and weedy beast," that was --

Something like a racehorse undersized,
   With a touch of Timor pony -- three parts thoroughbred at least--
And such as are by mountain horsemen priZed--

was more than a match for experienced stockmen of more imposing stature and greater age, for--  

When they reached the mountain summit even Clancy took a pull.
   It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
   Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
   And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,  
And he raced him down the mountain like torrent down its bed,  
   While the others stood and watched in very fear.

And after the stripling on his pony had run the mob single-handed

Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,    
   And alone and unassisted brought them back.

His hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
   He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted and his courage fiery hot,
   For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

Small wonder that lines such as these should stir the hearts of men who recognise in them scenes from their own lives and moments of enthusiasm. Then "The Geebung Polo Club" has been quoted and parodied times out of number. It has even attracted the notice of English papers devoted to the noble sport, and has been quoted verbatim for the appreciation of readers who could wonder at, though they might not understand the conditions under which that famous match was played between the Geebungs and the "Cuff and Collar Team," when both teams died in their heroic efforts to beat each other. Mr. Paterson thus discloses the result of that fateful contest-   

By Old Campaspe River, where the breeses shake the grass,
There's a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a rude inscription saying, "Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar Players and the Geebung boys lie here."
And on misty moonlight evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies' feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub--
He's been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.

We might go on quoting indefinitely from the other half-hundred poems in the book without wearying our readers, but justice to the author and the publisher requires a halt. It is sufficient to say that there is many an hour's delight in "The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses" for everyone who loves the Australian bush and bush life. But we would fain give one closing extract, from "Clancy of the Overflow," as an admirable picture of the romantic side of the drover's life--  

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
   Gone a-droving down the Cooper where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
   For the drovers' life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

"The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses" by A. B. Paterson. Sydney : Angus & Robertson. London : T J. Pentland.

First published in The Queenslander, 26 October 1895

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

You can read the full text of this collection at Project Gutenberg.

Shirley Hazzard Interviews

shirley_hazzard.jpg    As she approaches her 80th birthday in January 2011, Shirley Hazzard has been interviewed by "The New Yorker" about "travel and transit", and by Richard Ford at the PEN World Voices Festival in May.

"The New Yorker":
When did you begin travelling?

When I was still just a girl. My father was in the diplomatic service, and we moved with his postings. I lived for some years in the Far East, for instance, and it was quite wonderful. The transition and shifting from one place to another meant that I had no education, really. Of course I went to school with I was little, but it was not possible through adolescence to keep an absolute continuity of things. I never went to university, for instance, and there were long gaps in any kind of organized studies.

Did you regret this lack of formal education?

I think that moving around contributed immensely to my life. I would never say that I suffered from it at all. It was quite the opposite. I am uneducated in a sense, but I did read all the time, and I knew very marvellous people. I may be wrong in saying this, but I haven't felt any great privation, because I read constantly and learned other languages. It was reading that was most important to me.

It sounds as though travelling and reading are closely related for you.

All the intellectual pleasure I had as a child came from reading. It was such a pleasure, this act of reading and discovering, and of course it whetted my appetite all the time. One travelled in the reading, as it were.

Richard Ford:

Hazzard said poetry was "the longest important thing in my life." Ford said he thinks writers now "feel challenged to be tough on the page." Hazzard said we are lucky to have "a very flexible language" but that it is nonetheless "a challenge to find another shade or tone."

Richard Ford: "Do you think places have spirits?"

Shirley Hazzard: "I don't know how to express that. A place is always changing... and yet the language gives us continuity. I wish I had a more romantic vision of place."

Richard Ford: "What is the hardest part of being a writer?"

Shirley Hazzard: "I like writing dialogue. I like to have an open ear for speech."

Richard Ford: "Is there something you don't like about writing?"

Shirley Hazzard: "No."

Shirley Hazzard: "Well, writing checks or something."

Richard Ford: "Literary theory has pretty well strangled itself."

Shirley Hazzard: "I don't feel we need to be instructed all the time. The more criticism the less spontaneous acceptance there is."

This interview was recorded and you can watch it here.

Reprint: Death of Mrs. Mary Hannay Foott

Australian literature has suffered a distinct loss by the death of Mrs. Mary Hannay Foott, which occurred at Bundaberg on Saturday last after a short illness. Mrs. Foott had been walking in the streets of the town on Tuesday of last week, but on the same night contracted pneumonia, and died on Friday evening. Her daughters-in-law, Mrs. C. H. Foott and Mrs. A. P. Foott, had been summoned from Brisbane, but arrived an hour after the end came. Mrs. Foott had no relatives in Bundaberg, her elder son, Brigadier-General C. H. Foott, being absent on active service, while her second son, Arthur P. Foott, was killed in action in France a year ago. The funeral took glace at Bundaberg on Sunday, and was largely attended. The service was conducted by the Rev. Canon Beasley.

The late Mary Hannay Foott was a native of Glasgow, where she was bom on September 26, 1846. She was the daughter of the late James Black, while her mother was of the Hannay family, whose name was well known in literature. Mrs. Foott arrived in Australia in 1853, at the age of 7, and received her education in Melbourne. In 1874 she married Mr. Thomas Wade Foott, and lived for some years on Dundoo station, in South-western Queensland. On the death of her husband in 1884 she came to live at Rocklea, near Brisbane, and there opened a small private school, at which, in addition to the ordinary subjects, she gave lessons in music and painting. Possessing considerable artistic skill, she also gave much attention to literature, to which, indeed, most of her time was devoted, and she soon gave up her school to take the position of literary editor on the "Queenslander," which she occupied for many years. It was under her regime that the publication of social gossip, which has since become an institution in the daily as well as the weekly papers, was initiated. She retired from active newspaper work a number of years ago, and for some years had resided at Bundaberg. Mrs. Foott was the author of many poems, most of which appeared in the "Queenslander." She has published two volumes of verse--"Where the Pelican Builds, and Other Poems" (Brisbane, 1885) and "Morna Lee and Other Poems" (London, 1890).

First published in The Queenslander, 19 October 1918

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


Hal Gye: The Man and His Work
by Elizabeth Lane, 1986
Cover by Hal Gye
Angus and Robertson edition 1986

2010 Age Book of the Year Award Shortlists

The shortlists for the 2010 "Age" Book of the Year Award have been released.

The shortlisted works are:

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
Summertime by J.M Coetzee
The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy
Lovesong by Alex Miller
Come Inside by G.L. Osborne

Ten Hail Marys by Kate Howarth
Flying with Paper Wings by Sandy Jeffs
Listening to Country by Ross Moriarty
The Lost Mother by Anne Summers
Otherland by Maria Tumarkin

A Whistled Bit of Bop by Ken Bolton
Authentic Local by Pam Brown
Pirate Rain by Jennifer Maiden
Taller When Prone by Les Murray
Wimmera by Homer Rieth

The winners will be announced during the upcoming Melbourne Writers Festival.

Jon Bauer Interview

rocks_in_the_belly.jpg   Jon Bauer's debut novel, Rocks in the Belly, is about to be published by Scribe. Meanjin magazine's blog, "Spike", interviewed the author in the lead-up.
Do you keep a writer's notebook (or equivalent)? If so, can we take a peek - what's something you jotted down recently?

I think the good ideas don't need writing down, but in those anxious moments where the fear of losing one might be keeping me preoccupied or awake, I'll make a note in my phone in the form of a reminder.

Then days later I might be having a coffee with someone, or wake up in the morning to something like: Man steals dogs for glory of reuniting them; Cancer cry for speech; Two with Jung; Fists thing; Love over lover.

I put reminders in my phone too, for errands I have to run. Often reminders that have begging messages attached to them where I've tried to coerce the future-me. 'Book dentist. Go on. You know you should!'

But there's always the snooze option, so my mobile is like this little snow plough of jobs to do and stories to write that I repeatedly snooze. 'Pay gas bill. Do! Go on! You know you should!' Snooze.

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The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.jpg

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