January 2011 Archives

Shaun Tan and Oscar

| No TrackBacks

the_lost_thing.jpg   Shaun Tan's short animated film, The Lost Thing, based on his book of the same name, has been nominated for an Oscar. This, of course, puts Tan into rather rarefied company.

The nominees in this category are:

"Day & Night" Teddy Newton
"The Gruffalo" Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
"Let's Pollute" Geefwee Boedoe
"The Lost Thing" Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
"Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)" Bastien Dubois

Gerard Elson, from Readings bookshop, interviewed Tan back in November about the making of the film. The interview page contains a link to the film's trailer.

The Awards will be presented in Los Angeles on 27th February.

Poem: Where Kendal Dreamed by Will M. Fleming

| No TrackBacks
Where Kendal dreamed beside Narara Creek 
   I watched the elusive shadows come and go
And listened to the feathered songsters seek
   Elysian food where perfumed blossoms blow.
Softly they came and sang and softly went,
And all the world was full of wonderment 
      Where Kendal dreamed.   

Close by the busy hands of restless men 
   Have torn the veil from Nature's patient brow;
Despoiled her beauty Commerce with his pen
   Makes note of discounts that the Trade allow, 
And little rocks, in passing on his way,
The glories that have graced a bygone day 
   Where Kendal dreamed.

The old, romantic solitude has fled,
   And, striving, men forget the storied past;
To-day is here and yesterday is dead.
   Though stricken hopes their spectre shadows cast
Narara still is fair, the hillside gleams,
And life is sweeter for the graceful dreams
   That Kendal dreamed.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 November 1926

A paragraph in the obituary column recently took my thoughts back to a small room on an upper floor of a building in the heart of Brisbane. I see again a troop of fairies dancing about the whitewashed walls of that dingy little chamber-green fairies, pink fairies, and elves of other colours: some coy, some roguish, and all very dainty. Some are frolicking; others are perched sedately on the crowns of mushrooms and toadstools. Between the elfin groups are several small paintings and a number of inscribed photographs, of poets and musicians. The floor space of the room is equally crowded, it has shelves containing large quantities, untidily arranged, of articles and poems clipped by their author from newspapers and magazines; a small table, upon which rests a vase of flowers and a battered old typewriter; a chair facing the machine, and a visitor's chair near the door; an ancient couch to provide surcease from labour, and, supporting the gesture of hospitality made by that second chair, a small primus stove. In the chair facing the typewriter, her elbows resting on the table, and her dark, unusual eyes glowing behind glasses, sits the woman who is literally the presiding genius of this room. It is she who has caused the fairies to dance on the walls, even as she caused them during many years to dance on the printed page.

Alas, though, I write only of a memory. The fairies of the city room vanished some years ago when failing health compelled their creator to forsake the spot, and she herself was "made one with Nature" on March 18, when, as the obituary columns recorded, Mabel Forrest, poet and novelist, passed away. By that event Australia lost one of the most gifted women she has ever produced. Nevertheless, I for one am not wholly sorry that she has gone. She had suffered much, in many, ways, especially so in recent years. Indeed, she gave considerably more to life than life gave to her. Almost it seemed that the high gods, having equipped this daughter of a Queensland station with strange talents -- strange in the sense that poetic ability did not "run in the family," and was not stimulated by education determined capriciously to plague her with mundane misfortunes.

Thus there was not perhaps one year of her married life free from misadventure of some kind. Nor did she experience calmness in widowhood and middle-age. Her aged mother was killed in a street accident; various little affairs of business"went wrong," and in the meantime a weak heart frequently left her prostrated and unable to work. Her consolations were the affection of her daughter -- and of late of her grandchildren -- her poetry, her friends, her fairies, and, season by season, flowers of all kinds. Rarely did the table in the quaint little Room of the Fairies lack flowers from various gardens of Queensland.

Facility in Versemaking

Surely Mrs. Forrest's life was a striking example of courage and industry in the face of adversity. For more than 30 years she contributed a steady stream of verse and short stories to publications throughout Australia -- and recently England and America -- and for a considerable portion of that time her typewriter was her sole means of livelihood. No other woman in the Commonwealth has contrived to maintain herself by freelance work for such a long time. Five books of verse and four novels -- most of them published within the last 10 years -- represent a considerable achievement for any Australian, but   these are merely a modest portion of the entire body of literary production accomplished by Mrs. Forrest. Necessarily much of her work was "pot-boiling," and of no real merit, but the amount of good verse relative to the total quantity written by this industrious and sorely-tried woman is somewhat astonishing.

Both the quantity and the quality is explained by the fact that she was a "natural" poet. It is an odd thing that women poets in Australia appear to be more facile than men. At any rate, Mrs. Forrest's verse fell from her typewriter with extraordinary sureness. A brain teeming with elfin fancies and colours created ideas without stint, and happy words waited upon the ideas right heartily, so that the writing of a poem was less of a tax upon her mentality than it was upon her physical resources. It was a custom of hers to write me gossipy letters on the back of carbon copies of poems that had won approval from various editors, and in every instance it could be noted that the "second thoughts," the alterations," were very few. Many of the verses went from the typewriter to print without a word being amended. The one weakness was punctuation -- and in this Mrs Forrest was not singular among women writers.   Once an academic visitor -- he was among those who had the superficial impression that the signature, "M. Forrest," belonged to a man -- attempted to present her with a book dealing with the niceties of verse-making. The idea, it seemed, was to improve her work technically. Mrs. Forrest would have none of it. She had never "learned" verse-making, she said, and did not propose to begin after she had won editorial and public approval for a quarter-century. So, sitting in her little Room of the Fariies, she smiled blandly across the typewriter at her mentor, just as she smiled at scores of other visitors who came to offer either advice or homage, and then she went on with her work in the some old non-technical way.

A Poet's Self-epitaph

Poems came to Mrs. Forrest of their own accord, as it were. More than once she dreamed of a colourful scene, or a gay romance, and set it down in verse soon after waking. Sir Matthew Nathan, then Governor of Queensland, once described to her a 15th century window in his English home, and was charmed soon afterward to receive a dainty poem, full of quaint conceits, framed around that window. Several years ago I wrote in a book of the glories of the Macpherson Range, and told of the things to be seen and heard when sitting on a doorstep at dawn on the edge of a jungle. That "doorstop at dawn" caught Mrs. Forrest's fancy, and the verses she wrote around the phrase contained imaginings even brighter than the original scene. Another "objective" poem, and a charming trifle it was, had

her old typewriter as its subject. Another, vivid and colourful, was based upon a picturesque pumpkin seen at the Brisbane Show. (Did not Furnley Maurice once say that he would like to write a poem on an old boot?) Mrs. Forrest also wrote in verse what may be regarded as her own epitaph. Imagining the poet to die in the autumn -- which she herself did -- she wrote three verses mingling colour and irony, and then added this expressive verse:-  

   If I should make her epitaph
      It would be writ in petals fair:
   'Twould be half sob and half a laugh
      The scented phrase I'd fashion there   
   (More true than chiselled ones, perchance),   
   "She used to hear the fairies dance".

No other Australian poet, with the possible exception of Hugh McCrae has displayed such aptitude for creating pictures in verse. Colour for her had "a universal tongue" and under its influence her fancy roamed in far places. She had never travelled. "It is extraordinary," she once said to me, "that I am always in the same place while my friends move around the earth." Nevertheless her vivid imagination took her to scenes denied to others. She roamed in secret places of the earth, among vanished nations, in Eastern cities, in glorious gardens, among "peach blossoms blowing over sodden grass," beside singing brooks, and even   among "ribbons on city counters, rolled like tyres for pixy cars." She was fond of the verse of Lord Dunsany, and when she read his phrase, "And the butterflies sang of lost pink cities," she was away immediately on wings of fancy to that enchanted spot: -

   The city that I know to-day is grey,  
      Grey river and grey tower and greyer street;
   But sometimes, at the coming of the spring
      I hear a distant fluting, honey sweet,
   And guess, unseen, a ghostly player cries     
   The lost pink cities of the butterflies.

Life, as I have said, frequently bore very harshly upon Mabel Forrest, but always there were compensations; always there were the "lost pink cities of the butterflies." It is, I think, by and through these compensations that she would wish to be remembered -- not as the woman who smiled wanly and said, "I have had a dreadful time this year," but as the poet who "used to hear the fairies dance."

First published in The Argus, 6 April 1935

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

Fractured Literary Cartoon #1

| No TrackBacks
Fractured cartoon 1.jpg

Original illustration first published in The Bulletin, 17 December 1903

Australian Bookcovers #241 - South of Capricornia by Xavier Herbert

| No TrackBacks

South of Capricornia by Xavier Herbert (Edited by Russell McDougall), 1990
Cover illustration taken from the cover of the September 1931 edition of Wide World
UQP edition 1990

Reprint: Ada Cambridge by Amy E. Mack

| No TrackBacks

I had a visit this week from a well-known Australian, Ada Cambridge (Mrs. Cross). For the past three years she has been living in England, practically in retirement. She herself says:- "I am too old to make new friends, and I cannot be bothered with acquaintances." But when she knew that I was living at Cambridge she came at once to see me and make my acquaintance, because I am an Australian, and her heart is hungry for our land.

Ada Cambridge, as all readers of her "Thirty Years in Australia" know, is an Englishwoman; but all the best years of her life, the years that really count, were spent in Australia; her children and grandchildren are there, and her one longing is to go back, her one fear that she may die here in the north land. To all intents and purposes she is an Australian, and it was very sweet to meet her and talk about home. She knows Victoria best, of course, but over here the little differences of States all disappear, and it doesn't matter whether one comes from Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, or New South Wales -- we are just Australians. She wanted to know all about friends out there, and her memory of them was as fresh as if she had left them yesterday.

She is not writing very much now. "A book a year for twenty years is," she said, "a big effort when a woman is bringing up a family as well. And I seem to have lost my taste both for reading, and writing novels. I published one last year, but I was not very interested in writing it, and it stretched itself out in the making over nearly three years. Some of the criticisms were very amusing. During my silence of some years a new generation of reviewers has grown up in some of the papers, and several referred to my book as "the first effort of a new writer." Some of them spoke quite encouragingly, and prophesied that I should do something worth- while if I persevered. But you know Zangwill had the same experience, so I cannot feel hurt."

She has not laid by her pen altogether, but finds great pleasure in writing occasional essays of a philosophical nature, chiefly for two American magazines, the "Atlantic Monthly" and the "North American Review."

We had a lovely, friendly afternoon together. It was her first call, but there was nothing formal about it, no watching of the clock for fear of outstaying the conventional time. But we talked and talked, like old friends, and when it was time for her to go I strolled over the common with her in the real Australian fashion of seeing each other home.

"You had better come and see where we live, so that you will be able to find your way," she said.

So I went all the way to her home, the home which she has made so charming and comfortable that it has become an anchor here, keeping her from her beloved Australia. A green plot at the back was surrounded by fruit trees in full bloom; in front a border of bright blue forget-me-nots and brown and golden wallflowers made a lovely show. It was a typically English garden, but the owner did something that was by no means typically English. Stooping down, she plucked a great bunch of the flowers, with a prodigal disregard for the spoilt effect of the beds, and thrust into my hands the very first bunch of flowers that has been given me out of an English garden.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 1915

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

Literary Cartoon #2

| No TrackBacks

First published in The Bulletin, 17 March 1904

Interview with DBC Pierre

| No TrackBacks

lights_out.jpg  Although his latest novel, Lights Out in Wonderland, has been out and about for about six months now, DBC Pierre is interviewed by Laura Barnett for The Guardian. It's only a short piece, but newspapers seem to be becoming more and more reluctant to make such pieces available on their websites.
What got you started?

Anger. I was unemployed, and had just spent a day feeling overwhelmingly disenchanted. In anger, I wrote a sentence and then a paragraph and then a page. And then I just kept going.

What was your big breakthrough?

The mind and person and spirit of the literary agent Clare Conville. I found her after 12 rejections, and she absolutely understood what I was trying to do.

Which writers do you most admire?

Gore Vidal - he was my first exposure to free-form writing. And Thomas Mann, for the utter and absolute beauty of his writing.

What's the greatest threat to literature?

Profit. Markets pull away from quality and head for the quick, easy and low. As more people are interested in Katie Price than Ernest Hemingway, the market will naturally exponentiate in her direction.

Australian Bookcovers #240 - The Hat on the Letter O by Nicholas Hasluck


The Hat on the Letter O (revised edition) by Nicholas Hasluck, 1990
Cover drawing by Peter Walker
Fremantle Arts centre Press edition 1990

Poem: Harry Morant by Will H. Ogilvie

| No TrackBacks
Harry Morant was a friend I had
   In the years long passed away,
A chivalrous, wild and reckless lad,
   A knight born out of his day.

Full of romance and void of fears,
   With a love of the world's applause,
He should have been one of the cavaliers
   Who fought in King Charles's cause.

He loved a girl and he loved a horse
   And he never let down a friend,
And reckless he was, but he rode his course
   With courage up to the end.

"Breaker Morant" was the name he earned,
   For no bucking horse could throw
This Englishman who had lived and learned
   As much as the bushmen know.

Many a mile have we crossed together,
   Out where the great plains lie,
To the clink of bit and the creak of leather --
   Harry Morant and I.

Time and again we would challenge Fate
   With some wild and reckless "dare,"
Shoving some green colt over a gate
   As though with a neck to spare.

At times in a wilder mood than most
   We would face them at naked wire,
Trusting the sight of a gidyea post
   Would lift them a half-foot higher.

And once we galloped a steeplechase
   For a bet -- 'twas a short half-mile
With one jump only, the stiffest place
   In a fence of the old bush style.

A barrier built of blue-gum rails
   As thick as a big man's thigh,
And mortised into the posts -- no nails --
   Unbreakable, four foot high.

Since both our horses were young and green
   And had never jumped or raced,
Were we men who had tired of this earthly scene
   We could scarce have been better placed.

"Off" cried "The Breaker," and off we went
   And he stole a length of lead.
Over the neck of the grey I bent
   And we charged the fence full speed.

The brown horse slowed and tried to swerve,
   But his rider with master hand
And flaming courage and iron nerve
   Made his lift leap and land.

He rapped it hard with ever foot
   And was nearly down on his nose;
Then I spurred the grey and followed suit
   And -- praise to the gods -- he rose.

He carried a splinter with both his knees
   And a hind-leg left some skin
But we caught them up at the wliga trees
   Sitting down for the short run-in.

The grey was game and he carried on
   But the brown had a bit to spare;
The post was passed, my pound was gone,
   And a laugh was all my share.

"The Breaker" is sleeping in some far place
   Where the Boer War heroes lie,
And we'll meet no more in a steaplechase --
   Harry Morant and I.

First published in The Bulletin, 12 March 1947

Reprint: George Essex Evans by S.B.

| No TrackBacks

Two names generally are at once mentioned when men speak of Queensland poets -- Brunton Stephens and George Essex Evans. Both were Englishmen, and both are dead. They were close friends and mutual critics and mutual admirers. Evans, though English, was Welsh in paternal descent. He was born in London on June 18, 1863. He was educated at Haverford West and at the Channel Island of Jersey. His master in Jersey was the Rev. Mr. Le Breton, the father of the Mrs. Langtry who first was famous as a beauty and then as an actress. Essex Evans often spoke of Lily Langtry, whom he knew very well while he was at her father's school. He came to Queensland when a youth, at about 18 years of age and joined his brother John on a farm near Allora, Darling Downs. After some experience there he went away to the Gulf of Carpentaria with a survey party and found the life pleasant. The great open spaces appealed to him and the wonderful sincerity of personal relationships out there; but he had a bad accident, a broken leg which really never became sound again, though he continued as a fine athlete. He was sturdily built, and very powerful, a first-rate wrestler, a speedy runner and he represented Queensland in Rugby Union football against New South Wales. Later he as a matter rather of compulsion confined his athletics to long walks. After his experience in the Gulf country he returned to the farm at Allora, but that life was not congenial, nor was it profitable.   Vainly one remonstrated and spoke of the great poet who "went singing down his corn." Essex Evans simply hated the daily round on the farm. He had thoughts of other things. "He had the impulse of the poet, not of the farmer. Those who were his intimates in later years know the story, and those who did not know Evans personally will find it in his work, as, for instance, in the poem "Out of the Silence" published in his last book:

      Here in the silence cometh unto me
               A song that is not mine,
      With wash of waves along the cold shore line,
      And sob of wind, and rain upon the sea.

In many of his even later poems are found the repercussions of his Gulf of Carpentaria days. Of these may be particularised "A Pastoral," "The Grey Road," "On the Plains" -- two poems in the one volume there are of this title -- and Essex Evans told the writer that all through his time in the North-West he felt the call of the restful wildernesses, and the lines :

      Calm are the plains -- when the moon's clear beams are shed
      And the wilds lie hushed, all shrouded in silver grey --

had been singing through his mind for years before he put them into form.

It was while at Allora that he first took his courage in both hands and sent some verses to the "Queenslander." Mr. Joseph Butterfield thought well of them, and they were published under the pen-name of "Christophus." The young poet continued to send his work to the "Queenslander," and soon it attracted more than notice, and at the advice of one who was a stranger then he wrote above his name. To the same adviser, in long after years, in 1906, he sent a copy of "The Secret Key, and Other Verses," inscribed "To --- who, more than 20 years ago, was the first to detect any merit in my verse and to give me encouragement, from his chum Geo. Essex Evans." The poet became a regular contributor to the "Queenslander" and "Courier" with verse, narrative poems, short sketches, and humorous stories in rhyme. Later he joined the staff of the papers and did much good work, but on being appointed to a Government office at Toowoomba he gave up Press work and devoted his spare hours to poetry and literature generally, and he promoted and edited "The Antipodean." His next work for the Government was the writing of booklets upon the State for publication by the Intelligence Bureau, and these contained many prose gems which had the heart-whole admiration of so fine a critic as the late Mr. P. J. M'Dermott, Under Secretary to the Chief Secretary's Department, who was the poet's official head. Essex Evans lived part time in Brisbane, but his home and his heart were at Toowoomba, or just down the range from the Queen City, near the old Toll Bar, and the site of "Glenbar" of his days is often pointed out to those interested in the higher things of Queensland life. The poet married a widowed daughter of the Rev. E. Eglinton, a sister of the late Mr. Ernest Eglinton, P.M., and of Mr. Dudley Eglinton, a well-known writer on scientific subjects. Mrs. Essex Evans survives, and a son, a younger Essex Evans, is a fine young fellow in the service of the National Bank of Australasia.

George Essex Evans died at Toowoomba on November 10, 1909 after an operation. His death was a shock to his family and to many friends. At Toowoomba, in Webb Park, overlooking the Range, a monument to the poet has been erected, and on it -- North, South, East and West -- are verses from his beautiful tribute to "The Mountain Queen."  


Some years ago a prize was offered at Toowoomba for the best essay or appreciation of the poems of Essex Evans. The judges were Mr Littleton Groom, now Sir Littleton, and the writer of this article. The prize was awarded to Mr. Heber Longman, now Director of the Queensland Museum and a well known writer on literary and scientific subjects. A point influencing the judges was that Mr Longman waa discriminating. One other essay was beautifully done, but it was a eulogy without discrimination. In appreciating Essex Evans's poems discrimination is necessary. Though in his earlier work there is much that is very fine and beautiful the quality is very uneven. The poet knew that. He felt, and often said so, that he was evolving, finding the correct expression and he was not by any means satisfied that he had done his best work. But even of his earlier work much was distinctive, and in the whole range of what he accomplished only one poem can be classed as under an influence. The very fine thing "A Medley" has the metre, and in places other similarities, of the "Locksley Hall " of Tennyson. The colour is Australian, but part of the philosophy is Tennysonian. One catches the environment in

      Eastward in the skies of morning rosy tinges streak the gray,
      Bars of crimson change to golden-glitt'ring heralds of the day,  
      Like a blood-red shield uprising swims the sun in palest blue,
      Crowne the hills with crests of splendour, flashes on the trembling dew --

And the other spirit is in this:  

      He is best and he is noblest who has kept through good and ill
      Something of his purer nature, something of his childhood still.

A writer in the London "Daily Telegraph," reviewing "The Secret Key and Other Verses," selected for special consideration "The Song of Gracia " This was quoted and described as standing in beauty of thought and expression with much that was best in English verse. For the benefit of those who do not know the poem the following extract is given, "torn from its context" though it be:

      Two violets, seeking Paradise,
      Have hid themselves within her eyes.
      Her lips are roses. She doth wear
      A sunbeam woven in her hair.
      And of the foam-flake of the sea   
      Her cheek and neck and bosom be.

That is very different from the slogging style of the stirring indictment "Ode to the Philistines," from the popular "The Women of the West," and from other of the more known of the poet's work. It will perhaps interest readers to know that though Essex Evans was not a phrase-maker and had no pose in that respect he loved certain little things that he wrote. In "An Australian Symphony" he has the following :-  

      Could tints be deeper, skies less dim,
         More soft and fair,
      Dappled with milk-white clouds that swim
         In faintest air?
      The soft moss sleeps upon the stone,
      Green scrub-vine traceries enthrone
      The dead gray trunks and boulders red --

He was very fond of his line, "The soft moss sleeps upon the stone." It is certainly very beautifully expressed. It will perhaps be remembered that on the accomplishment of Federation a substantial prize was offered for the best ode on "Commonwealth Day." It was awarded to the Queensland poet, George Essex Evans. That was a great gratification to him and to his friends, and certainly his ode was a very brilliant and very stirring tiling. It opened with:

      Awake! Arise! The wings of dawn
         Are beating at the Gates o' Day!
      The morning star hath been withdrawn,
         The silver vapours meit away!
      Rise royally, O Sun, and crown
         The shoreward billow, streaming white,
      The forelands and the mountains brown,
         With crested light --

And the conclusion is very fine :

      From shameless speech, and vengeful deed,
         From license veiled in freedom's name,
      From greed of gold and scorn of creed,
         Guard thou our fame!  
      In stress of days that yet may be  
         When hope shall rest upon the sword,
      In Welfare and Adversity,
         Be with us, Lord!

That was written before the "Recessional" of Kipling. With an intimate knowledge of the work of George Essex Evans the writer's view is that outstanding and of greatest value is "Lux in Tenebris." On the occasion of a lecture by Mr. Henry Tardent -- a most appreciative friend of the poet -- at the rooms of the Royal Geographical Society, Sir Matthew Nathan said he considered the poem the best thing Essex Evans had done, and to the very great pleasure of the audience he recited it. The sweeter things, and the more stirring things of the post are the more popular to-day, but "Lux in Tenebris" is the best monument of George Essex Evans. And as a music lover the writer submits the following :

      O Poets, round whose souls, since the beginning,
         Strange echoes tremble and wild visions throng,
      Ye all have heard the sweetness of the singing,
         But no man knows the meaning of the song --

By the death of Essex Evans Queens- land and Australia lost a poet who accomplished much, but the full harvest of whose genius had not been gathered. The Queenslander, as we claim him, holds a high place in the estimation of the critics and all who know his work, and it reveals a very fine mind and strong masculinity, combined with culture and refinement.

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 14 October 1927

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

Note: you can read the full text of the Essex Evans poem, "Ode for Commonwealth Day".

Literary Cartoon #1

| No TrackBacks

First published in The Bulletin, 23 March 1905

Note: A hundred years on I suspect the subject might have more relevance if it referred to vampires or wizards.

Ruth Park (1917-2010)

| No TrackBacks


Ruth Park, the New Zealand-born Australian author, died in December at the age of 93. Best known for her novel The Harp in the South (along with its sequel Poor Man's Orange) and for her children's series featuring The Muddle-Headed Wombat, Park won the Miles Franklin Award for Swords and Crowns and Rings in 1977.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1917, Park arrived in Australia in 1942 where she met and married the writer D'Arcy Niland. Her first novel, The Harp in the South, was published in 1948 after winning The Sydney Morning Herald Literary Competition in 1946 - the novel was serialised in that newspaper in 1947. She followed this with a sequel, Poor Man's Orange, in 1949.

As well as her literary novels she wrote extensively for children, winning the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Children's Book award in 1981 for When the Wind Changed, and the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award in 1981 for Playing Beatie Bow. Her Muddle-Headed Wombat series started in 1962 - after originally appearing in a radio serial in the 1940s - and continued until the early 1980s. The books were extensively published in overseas markets.

Playing Beattie Bow was filmed in 1986, and both The Harp in the South and Poor Man's Orange were adapted for television in 1987.

You can read obituaries of the author here:

The Australian
The Courier-Mail
The Herald-Sun
The Sydney Morning Herald
ABC news
Sky news


The Country Without Music by Nicholas Hasluck, 1990
Cover illustration by Mark Trinham
Viking edition 1990

Best Books of 2010 #3 - Various

| No TrackBacks
Continuing the Australina entries in the Best Books of the Year lists:

- "The Economist" chose Peter Carey's Parrot & Olivier in America as one of only 7 entries in their fiction list: "A vivid narrative about Alexis de Tocqueville's visit to America which brings together a mass of vivid historical detail and some very lively writing, by an Australian-born two-time Man Booker prize-winner."

- "Publishers Weekly" picked Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta in their children's book list: "Printz Award-winner Marchetta's epic is distinguished by flawed and endlessly surprising heroes, an atmospheric island setting, and a compelling quest to restore a desecrated kingdom to its former glory. Shot through with complexities, humor, and exquisitely crafted dialogue, interactions, and relationships, this is fantasy that succeeds on every level."

- and the same publication also went for Peter Carey in their fiction list: "Olivier, a fictionalized and absolutely obnoxious riff on Alexis de Tocqueville, contends with Parrot, a cunning servant dispatched to spy on Olivier by Olivier's mother, as the two journey across early 19th-century America. In this vast picaresque, Carey finds, via a snobbish Frenchman and an earthy Brit, a truly American story."

Poem: The Press Shall be Free! by Anonymous

| No TrackBacks

You may talk of your glorious freedom,
   Your laws, and your charters of Right;
But where are they now when we need 'em,
   Alas! have they all ta'en to flight?

Shall we suffer the tyrants to drive us,
   Who call ourselves Britons and free; 
Shall we suffer them now to deprive us
   Of the standard of true liberty.

What! shall the Republic of letters
   By the chains of oppression be bound;
Shall opinion be galled by their fetters,
   And sink into darkness profound!

Arise! if there's spirit among us,
   Shall we turn from the contest and flee;
Arise against those who would wrong us,
   Hurrah! for the Press shall be free.

The Press shall be free, for we prize it --
   We are not afraid of a frown.
The truth! we shall never disguise it,       
   Hurrah! we will not be put down.

First published in The Argus, 1 May 1849

Many young Australian writers, desperate at the lack of book-publishing facilities in Australia, have gone abroad, to see publishers in England or America and, having found publishers they have stayed away from this country -- for their own good. Why should an author remain in Australia, to be treated with indifference by his own people, they say, when fame and recognition are to be had in London or New York? Such an export of talent is a loss to Australia. We can only admire those who have remained here to pioneer Australian Literature as their fathers pioneered the economic resources of this vast and uncultivated continent. Frank Dalby Davison is one of the young Australians, of a new generation of writers, who is determined to make his literary home amongst his own people.

Unable to find a publisher for his first two books, "Man Shy" and "Forever Morning," he had them printed and published privately, encouraged and assisted by his father, Mr. Fred. Davison, a Sydney estate agent, who is also possessed of strong literary gifts and is a sound critic. Compared with the finished-looking products of professional publishers, young Davison's books were crudely printed and bound, and looked amateurish in the extreme. One blushed to think that such poor-looking books were representative of Australian literature. But readers of the books had a pleasant surprise in store. In Frank Dalby Davison's books discerning readers saw the power and fluency and word-control that marks the great writer. A new star had risen in the Australian literary firmament.

The first editions were eagerly bought up. "Man Shy" was awarded the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medal for the best Australian novel published in 1931. Angus and Robertson, Ltd., of Sydney, republished the books in proper professional style. Frank Dalby Davison had "arrived."

The first two novels both dealt with men and cattle in the Australian bush. "Man Shy" tells of the herds of wild cattle ("scrubbers") that ranged in the mountains beyond the boundaries of a cattle-station on the Maranoa, in Queensland. They were like a "phantom herd" that had been in existence for sixty years:

Theirs was a life for the brute slaves of man to dream of. Their hides had never known the searing whip, or the sting of the branding iron; nor did the shadow of the slaughterhouse fall across their years. Companions of the wilder- ness creatures -- the emu, the dingo, and the kangaroo-- their life was the life of dumb brutes as it was on earth in the beginning. They were free as the winds that played about their mountains; free as the rains that swept up the gorges; and as free as the range itself, hoisting its timber-crested palisades into the blue. They lived secure and content in the simple wisdom the Creator has given to dumb things.

In every paragraph of this remarkable Australian story the author builds up in simple, but unforgettable imagery, the life of the wild herd. His similes are drawn directly from nature:

The narrow pads along which they passed in single file from one feeding ground to another lay in the mountains like the webbed veins in the back of a leaf. 

The observation of the bushland never errs. The author has not drawn upon his imagination, but on his knowledge, in writing such passages as, for example, the following description of a fight between two bulls:

Prelude to battle was observed with due ceremony. Eyeing each other from a distance of about forty yards, each roared his contempt at the other. Each stroked the ground with a challenging forefoot, flinging the dust back along his flanks. They walked a few paces towards each other, and paused. Their battle-cry was a succession of throaty grumbles, each pitched about a tone higher than the preceding one; each followed by a sobbing intake of the breath; and the last one ending in a blast that threatened annihilation. With short, measured steps they again moved towards each other, heads lowering to engage. 

A quick eye! That is precisely what Davison himself possesses, and it is the essential qualification for a writer. Things seen and noted, simply and graphically told -- such is the material of all great art. Like the painter of pictures in oils, the writer, who is a painter of pictures in words, must trust his eye, and use his eye, before he begins to use his pen. Frank Davison understands this. He has looked closely at Australia before beginning to write about it. He has looked through his own eyes and not through the spectacles kindly provided for our use by English, and other visitors, to this country. That is why the work of Frank Dalby Davison is a portent for the future of the Australian novel. Only one other writer -- Miles Franklin -- has written so directly and with such surely observed knowledge of horses and cattle in the Australian scene. This is real Australia, one feels, not the romantic Australia of "bookish" writers.

Frank Davison's future work will be watched with great interest by those who look forward to a powerful Australian literature, strong-rooted in the soil. "I am Australian by birth and by conviction," he has stated. It will be interesting to see whether he can write of the Australian bush in a manner interesting to people who live abroad, as Vance Palmer has done in "The Passage," and Katherine Pritchard in "Working Bullocks." But he is more likely to succeed if he writes for his own people first.

Angus and Robertson have just published a new story of his entitled "The Wells of Beersheba," which deals with the Australian Light Horse, in Palestine. This book is not a novel, but a long "short-story" in book form, intended as a Gift Book.

Frank Dalby Davison is an Australian writer well worth watching.

First published in The West Australian, 27 May 1933

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

Australian Bookcovers #238 - Truant State by Nicholas Hasluck

| No TrackBacks

Truant State by Nicholas Hasluck, 1987
Cover illustration by Betty Greenhatch
Penguin edition 1987

New Weblog Starts Up

| No TrackBacks
A couple of weeks back I mentioned I was working on a new poetry reprint weblog.  That has now started, and you can find it under the title Rhymes Rudely Strung.

The first poem, Ode for Commonwealth Day by George Essex Evans, was posted today and a new poem will follow each day.

Maybe now I can get back to concentrating a bit more on poor old Matilda.  She has been negelected shamefully of late.

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 ore 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


 Monster Blood Tattoo: Factotum by D. M. Cornish
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 MiĆ©ville
MiƩville'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.


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

February 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en