April 2011 Archives

Poem: Brunton Stephens by George Essex Evans

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The gentle heart that hated wrong,
   The courage that all ills withstood,
The seeing eye, the mighty song
   That stirred us into Nationhood,
      Have passed. What garlands can be spread?
      The Prince of Courtesy is dead.

The power that touched all human chords
   With wit that lightened thro' the years,
Without a sting, whose tender words
   Unsealed the fountain of our tears
      Ah! bow the heart and bend the head --
      The Prince of Courtesy is dead.

Great Singer of the South, who set
   Thy face to Duty as a star,
Though, in hushed skies of violet,
   Thy throne of kingship gleamed afar,
      Shall not the toll of common days
      Add nobler lustre to thy bays ?

O Mighty Voice, whose words shall stand --
   When all our songs have ceased to be --
Steadfast, the watchwords of our land?
   The guide and torch of Liberty !
      The Master-Poet called afar,
      And thou at last hast found thy star.

First published
in The Brisbane Courier, 1 July 1902

The subject of this poem is J. Brunton Stephens (1835-1902).

Reprint: Fifty Years of Brunton Stephens

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Fifty years ago James Brunton Stephens, destined to become famous in later years as Queensland's greatest poet, and one of the most charming writers of official despatches and newspaper specialities that Australia has ever had, published his first book of poetry, entitled "Convict Once." Up to that time Australia had produced little creative artistic work; in fact, the same applied to the other parts of the British colonies, as they were then called. Gordon, dead a few months before "Convict Once" was published, had laid the foundation of what subsequently became a particular school of poetry; Kendall, struggling against black adversity, had written the first of his arcadian gems; "Rolf Boldrewood" was writing "The   Squatter's Dream" as a serial for the old ''Town and Country Journal"; and Marcus Clarke was completing the last chapters of "For the Term of his Natural Life" for the old "Australian Journal." A few other writers were struggling for expression, but, in the main, the work was not above mediocrity. Even the brilliant Kendall and the erratic Gordon, like Deniehy, Harpur, and other poetic pioneers, had found little encouragement for their artistic souls. Brunton Stephens, a Scotsman by birth, and educated at Edinburgh University, arrived in Queensland in the year 1866, and spent nearly six years as tutor at Tamrockum station, on the Logan River, where he wrote his famous poem, "Convict Once," and many other verses. Though "Convict Once" was his first published poem, there is hardly any doubt that it was also his greatest, because the poems of his later years never eclipsed the grandeur, the beauty, and the dramatic continuity which runs throughout the exultant, yet heart-broken, cry of the woman who was freed from a seven years' transportation, and then despairingly realised that the world for her was a lonely, homeless blank. The poem, of course, will never be so popular as his humorous and miscellaneous pieces, such as, for instance, "Marsupial Bill," which,     when published in a Christmas number of the "Queenslander," became the literary event of the year in Australia. Few poets in the English language have handled the difficulties of hexameter verse so effectively as Brunton Stephens did in "Convict Once'' but it seems a pity that, fine classical scholar as he was, he did not follow the example of some of the tragic writers of Athens and vary the heroic measures with short lyrical metres, as Tennyson did in "Maud." Had he done so "Convict Once" would have claimed its place among the really great epics of the nineteenth century, and would have been worthy even of Swinburne himself, who exercised such an influence overour Queensland poet.

The most astonishing feature about Brunton Stephens was his amazing versatilty. Whether he dipped for his inspiration into classics, into mediaeval lore, or into philosopical or political subjects, and whether he treated them in the heroic grandeur of ancient Greece, as in "Convict Once," in the beautiful lyrical sweetness of "Fayette," in the frolicsome banter of "The Godolphin Arabian," or in the exquisite humour of "Stenograms," which was such a delightful feature of the "Queenslander," to which he contributed under the name of "Allegretto," the reader is always conscious of being in the presence of a highly-cultured, keenly observant, and kind-hearted genius. Nothing could illustrate more thoroughly the   versatility of a poet who could turn from the passionate love and the fierce untamed defiance of the strong-willed woman in "Convict Once" to the circus adventures of a Barbary thoroughbred, or to the humorous subtleties of a Chinese cook.  The reader may take up a volume of Brunton Stephens' poems and be charmed in one page with lyrics as sweet as those of Longfellow, grow sympathetic in another page with epic grandeur that would not be unworthy of a place in Swin-burne, and laugh hilariously in still another with banter in the facile metre of Byron's "Don Juan." He was writing in the days of some of England's literary giants, yet his fame spread across the oceans, and in one famous gazetteer, published by a celebrated firm, the single reference to the city of Brisbane is "The home of Brunton Stephens." Could poet ask for greater fame? Unlike Kendall, allowed almost to starve until relieved by Sir Henry Parkes a couple of years before Kendall's death, Brunton Stephens had not to contend against heart-breaking disappointment and uncertainty. For years he filled a trusted and important office in the Department of the Chief Secretary, and if that did not mean liberty and affluence, at least it placed him above that pessimism which springs from hardship and poverty. On the whole, his country treated him better than George Essex Evans, the singer of a later date. Most of our poets have found inspiration at one time or another in the future destiny of Australia, but none have handled the subject with the literary skill, the artistry, the foresight, and the prophetic vision of Brunton Stephens. He does not expend his force on its delightful valleys, on its long mountain range, on its endless miles of sand, or in the beauty of some harbour scenery. Brunton Stephens touches the human aspect, realises the aspirations of the people, dips into the future "where footfalls of appointed things, reverberant of days to be, are heard in forecast echoings, like wave-beats from a viewless sea," and sings of the Australian Dominion. His forecast was written nearly thirty-five years before Federation was consummated, and was pitched in the noblest key of patriotic and prophetic fervour. The prediction has been fulfilled, and the glory is being achieved.

Among the patriotic gems must be included that beautiful contrast which was inspired by an ancient Roman coin bearing the image and superscription of the Imperial Trajan on his throne. After moralising over the vicissitudes of that "glory-tissued vision" of pictured history, the poet thunders aloud that --  

   This is the only land beneath heaven's roof
   Where never yet hath manhood bent the knee
   To man --- the one sole continent whose sod
   The foot of regnant knighthood ne'er hath trod.

Brunton Stephens, however, with that prevision that characterises so much of his writings, uttered a warning note, which has become very appropriate in this democratic, yet distinctly proud, age, when he went on to sing:

   Is there among us aught that justifies
   The scorn of ancient things? Can we repeal
   The union 'twixt the present and the past,
   And place ourselves as first whom God made last?

In estimating the merits of Brunton Stephens, as well as our other writers, it must not be forgotten that both verse and prose are often beaten out at white heat for the daily Press, which waits neither for polish nor final touch. Just as our wines -- admittedly the best in the world -- often suffer from want of maturity, so the efforts of our writers have suffered to a considerable extent because the authors have lacked the time in which to polish them. Brunton Stephens, despite that handicap -- the handicap of every busy man -- produced both verse and prose that touch the high-water mark of literary excellence, whilst his official documents, written at a time when charm of diction meant even more than it does to-day, are worthy of a place with those of the most cultured officials of the Colonial Office. It is just fifty years since Brunton Stephens published his first poem, yet we believe that his fame to-day is greater as an Australian poet than it was a score of years ago, and also that according as Queensland progresses into that splendid future predicted for her, so shall her people hail Brunton Stephens as the father and the master of her song. 

First published in The Queenslander, 5 February 1921

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

The subject of this essay is J. Brunton Stephens (1835-1902).

Australian Literary Monuments #28 - John Shaw Neilson

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Monument to John Shaw Neilson, a few miles west of Nhill, Victoria.

2011 Miles Franklin Award Shortlist

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The shortlist of novels in the running for the 2011 Miles Franklin Award has been released:

The list is:

When Colts Ran by Roger McDonald
That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott
Bereft by Chris Womersley

A total of three novels in a shortlist that normally contains 5 or 6.  I'm not sure what to make of this number, nor what to make of the fact that all the authors are male, again. I can't see that anyone is going to be happy with this announcement, aside from the authors and their publishers of course.

Is this indicative of a down-turn in quality of Australian novels?  Or something else entirely? There were nine novels on the original longlist.  Even that seemed a little "short" for a "long" list.

Reprint: Real-Life Rufus Dawes

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Marcus Clarke's Novel Recalled

Rufus Dawes, hero of Marcus Clarke's "Term of His Natural-Life," had his counterpart in reality. This unfortunate man (says "Historicus.", writing in "The Australian Journal" for April) was Edmund Galley, who in 1836 was accused of complicity in the murder of one, Jonathan May, near Mortonhampstead, England, nearly a year before. May had been found on the road so severely knocked about that he died without regaining consciousness. His pockets had been rifled. The authorities rounded up a number of suspects, all known criminals, but there was no evidence against any of them. Among the crowd was one Avery, a wrestler of sorts, who was kept in goal pending investigations. Later his lady friend, Elizabeth Harris, appeared at Exeter Court on a larceny charge. Hoping to gain advantage of the free pardon offered to anyone who gave information about the May affair, and also to clear Avery, this charming girl declared that she had actually been present at the murder, and that it had been committed by two young gentlemen respectively known as "Buckingham Joe" and "Dick Turpin." Their real names were Edmund Galley and Oliver. They were tried before the famous "Hanging" Judge Williams, amid an orgy of false swearing and mistaken identity. The facts were that Galley had never been near the scene of the murder, that he had actually been in Deptford when it was committed, and that he did not even know Oliver. Nevertheless, many witnesses swore to him, and, as he had no money for his defence, and was a hang-dog-looking poor wretch into the bargain, he was sentenced to death. When the sentence was pronounced, even the hardened Oliver, was sorry for his fellow prisoner, and in a speech from the dock asserted Galley's innocence, but it was useless. An inquiry was held by the Home Office, but the only result of it was that Galley's sentence was commuted to transportation for life. After several years on a convict ship, he was sent to Australia. Ironically enough the man who, it was proved, actually murdered May had been sent out here before Galley on another charge! After poor Galley had been in Australia for nearly forty years investigation proved his innocence. This must surely have been the man Clarke had in mind when he wrote his famous novel.

First published in The Camperdown Chronicle, 3 April 1937

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

2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

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The shortlisted works for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award have been released.

The shortlist is:

Galore by Michael Crummey (Canada)
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (USA)
The Vagrants by Yiyun Li (China/USA)
Ransom by David Malouf (Australia)
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (Ireland)
Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (Australia)
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (Ireland)
Love and Summer by William Trevor (Ireland)
After the Fire, a Small, Still Voice by Evie Wyld (Australia)

The full list of nominated titles is available here.

The winner will be announced in Dublin on 15th June 2011.

Australian Bookcovers #253 - The Silver Castle by Clive James

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The Silver Castle by Clive James, 1996
Jacket artwork stil from Ray Kapoor's film Satyam Shivan Sundaram.  Jacket design: Tracey Winwood
Jonathan Cape edition, 1996

Poem: To Henry Halloran by Henry Kendall

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You know I left my forest home full loth;
   And those weird ways I know so well and long,
Dishevelled with their sloping sidelong growth
   Of twisted thorn and kurrajong.

It seems to me, my friend (and this wild thought
   Of all wild thoughts, doth chiefly make me bleed),
That in those hills and valleys wonder-fraught,    
   I loved and lost a noble creed !

A splendid creed! but let me even turn
   And bide myself from what I've seen, and try
To fathom certain truths you know, and learn
   The Beauty shining in your sky:   

Remembering you, in ardent autumn nights,
   And Stenhouse near you, like a fine stray guest
Of other days, with all his lore of lights
   So manifold and manifest!

Then hold me firm. I cannot choose but long
   For that which lies and burns beyond my reach;
Suggested in your steadfast subtle song
   And his most marvellous speech !

For now my Soul goes drifting back again ;
   Ay, drifting, drifting, like the silent snow
While scattered sheddings, in a fall of rain,
   Revive the dear lost Long Ago!

The time I, loitering by untrodden fens,
   Intent upon low-hanging lustrous skies,
Heard mellowed psalms from sounding southern glens,  
   Euroma, dear to dreaming eyes!  

And caught seductive tokens of a Voice
   Half-maddened with the dim delirious themes
Of perfect Love, and the immortal choice
   Of starry-faces-astral dreams!

That last was yours! And if you sometimes find
   An alien darkness on the front of things,
Sing none the less for Life, nor fall behind,
   Like me; with trailing tired wings!

Yea, though the heavy Earth wears sackcloth now
   Because she hath the great prophetic grief
Which makes me set my face one way, and bow
   And falter for a far belief,

Be faithful yet for all, my brave bright peer,
   In that rare light you hold so true and good;
And find me something clearer than the clear
   White spaces of Infinitude.

First published
in The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 1864

Note: the subject of this poem is the poet Henry Halloran (1811-93).  "Stenhouse" in verse three is probably Nicol Drysdale Stenhouse (1806-73) who was a literary patron.

2011 Barbara Jefferis Award Winner

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The winner of the 2011 Barbara Jefferis award has been announced by the Australian Society of Authors.

And this winner is

G. L.Osborne, Come Inside (Clouds of Magellan)

The shortlisted works were detailed here.

Previous winners of this award were:

2010 - Kristina Olsson, The China Garden (UQP)
2009 - Helen Garner, The Spare Room (Text)
2008 - Rhyll McMaster, Feather Man (Brandl & Schlesinger

Reprint: Obituary - Henry Halloran

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The death of Mr Henry Halloran, C. M.G., occurred on May 10 at his late residence, Mowbray, Ashfield. As a very old colonist, the name of Mr Halloran has long been familiar in Now South Wales, his frequent contributions to the press, and his readiness on all occasions to use his gifts for the celebration of any event of public interest having won for him a place among the poets of Australia. Mr Halloran was a native of South Africa, having been born in 1811 at Cape Town, where his father was rector of the grammar school and chaplain to the forces. After some residence in England, he came out to this colony, entering the Survey Office in 1827, and continued in the Civil Service for a period of 51 years, when he retired on a pension, having risen to the position of Principal Under-Secretary, in which he was considered to have shown remarkable administrative ability. Mr Halloran was twice married, and has left a numerous family to mourn their loss. The funeral of Mr Henry Halloran, took place on Sunday afternoon, the coffin being placed in the family vault within the burial ground attached to St John's Church, Ashfield. A large number of beautiful wreaths was sent to the late residence, of the deceased, Mowbray, Ashfield, by friends and relations, the floral offerings embracing one from the Colonial Secretary's Department. The funeral was, in accordance with the expressed wish of the deceased, of a simple character. At it there were, in addition to the widow and sons of the deceased, the Hon Sir Henry Parkes, G.C.M.G., M.L.A., Mr. A. C. Budge (Clerk to the Execu tive Council), Mr. E. W. M'Kenny (Assistant Principal Under Secretary), Mr. Harrie Wood (Under-Secretary for Mines), Mr. Thomas Lewis, Mr. John Davidson, Mr. John F. Mann, Mr. Coles, M. G. J. Cohen, Mr .Harry Budge, Mr. MacCabe (of Wollongong), Mr. George Lloyd, Mr. E. Dowling, the Rev. J. H. Craig, and a large number of other friends of the late Mr. Halloran. At St. John's a short choral service was held, and in connection with it the Rev. Dr. Corlette delivered a brief address.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 May 1893

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

Australian Bookcovers #252 - Brrm! Brrm! by Clive James

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Brrm! Brrm! by Clive James 1991
Jacket design: Peter Dyer
Jonathan Cape edition 1991

2010 Australian Literary Society Gold Medal Shortlist

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The shortlisted works for the 2010 Australian Literary Society Gold Medal have been announced.

The list is:

Apocrypha by Peter Boyle
Gravel by Peter Goldsworthy
That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott
The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter
Bereft by Chris Womersley

No word on when the winner will be announced that I can find.

Poem: Christopher Brennan by Roderic Quinn

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You dwelt with us a little time,
   A poet true, and as the wind
That sings and dies you passed away
   With all the riches of your mind.

You nested with us for a while,
   And when in time you gathered wings,
You fled, and left us this alone
   Faint murmurs and far echoings.

Dwell where you will, fly where you will,
   To you, old schoolmate, there belong
The inspiration and the gift
   Of song, high song, undying song.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 October 1932

Note: the subject of this poem is the poet Christopher Brennan (1870-1932)

Reprint: Chris Brennan

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Australia possesses a number of verse writers but few poets, and of her three major poets, Hugh McCrae, Christopher Brennan, and Shaw Neilson, two are almost entirely unknown to the general public. Their works have been published only in de luxe or subscription editions now long out of print, and they still await a publisher. Chris. Brennan was neglected in his lifetime; upon his death there were but few of us who stood by the graveside; to-day he is still ignored. This strange neglect has been pointed out only this week in the correspondence columns of the "Herald," and so very timely indeed comes the appreciation entitled "C. J. Brennan," by Randolph Hughes. This book deserves the most serious consideration for many reasons. Its subject is one of our greatest poets, perhaps the greatest. Its author is probably better qualified than any living person to write about Brennan, for not only is he a critic of distinction in England and France, but he also brings to his evaluation of the poet European principles of criticism, genuine scholarship, and an unusual knowledge of the French symbolism and German romanticism which were the major influences in the creation of Brennan's poetry. He, too, has known "what strains the faun's enamour'd leisure weaves." Furthermore, he was both a pupil and a friend of Brennan's. Finally, this book bears the sub-title, "An Essay in Values," and it challenges the common literary estimates held in this country in a fashion which will be found extremely provocative. Mr. Hughes hurls the critical gage in the face of Australia with a bravura somewhat flamboyant. He wears his panache in the Gascon style. But if out of the controversy which his book is sure to provoke emerges a higher conception of literature, a more absolute measure of our poets, real or soi-disant, then he will have rendered yeoman service to Australian letters. The right appreciation of Brennan may mark the turning of the tide from the shallows of verse to the deep sea of poetry with its illimitable horizons.

Mr. Hughes does not attempt to give a biography of Brennan, only "random strays" of reminiscence and "small essays in intellectual portraiture." But he gives a survey of Brennan as scholar, an interpretation of him as poet, and especially as symbolist, a study of bis poetic affiliations, essays on symbolism and romanticism, and a detailed examination of his poetry, which is partly technical, partly general, candid, yet appreciative. His estimate of Brennan as our greatest poet goes hand in hand with scathing indictments of certain Australian authors and Australian critical values. It is interesting to note here his statement that "the three best poets besides (and after) Brennan and, with him, practically the only ones worthy of any attention" - are Victor Daley, Neilson, and McCrae. Mr. Hughes' work is marked by many defects as well as great virtues. His criticism at its best is penetrating and moves on a plane far above the average literary criticism written locally. It is a pity, therefore, that it is marred at odd times by touches of bad temper. On the biographical side there are minor inaccuracies. The reduction of Brennan's verse to Greek metres is not altogether convincing. The style is not impeccable; at times there is a drop from the brilliance, subtlety, and vigour of expression down to the genteel Billingsgate of mere diatribe. The manner ls refreshing but over-dogmatic, and contains hints of pedantry. Analytically, there is a tendency to erect needless antitheses, to turn valid complementaries into cat-and-dog contradictories, as in the case of scholarly and unscholarly poets, absolute and representative poetry, major and minor poets - as if upon Parnassus the foothills were an insult to the peaks. Of Mr. Hughes' provocative sallies, some are justified, some are not, whilst others are debatable. Thus his strictures on Professor Hancock and the London "Times" for their ignorance of Australian literature and critical ineptitude are quite warranted. But to call Burns "a minor poet" and "groundling" is stuff and nonsense.

Brennan's poetry is suggestive, mystic, and supernatural, Edenic, striving towards a lost Paradise and a transcendental twilight. This penumbrous quality of Brennan's work becomes sheer obscurity; yet this "obscurity" is purposive, part of the magian method, and deepened by allusions drawn from the "rich Cipangos" of Brennan's mind. Mr. Hughes, in explaining the tenets and method of symbolism, illuminates "the dolorous incantation." Yet it remains doubtful if Brennan did not lose as much as he gained by following Mallarme into "The Forest of Night." It is true that Brennan was never a born singer like McCrae; but in "Towards the Source" and the earlier poems, especially those like "Let Us Go Down, the Long Dead Night is Done," "We Sat Entwined," and the prelude to "The Quest of Silence," the lyrical note is still pellucid, and lt might have deepened without the symbolist influence into poetry which kept the magic and the might without becoming Delphic. Was symbolism for Brennan salvation or a snare, a guide to greatness, or a fatal will-o'-the-wisp, that led him into many a "vapour from the evening marsh of sense?" Whatever the answer, his poetry at its best can speak for itself.

First published
in The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 December 1934

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

Early Book Advertisement #1

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First published in The Bulletin, 28 April 1910

Reprint: Letter to the Editor: Homage to Brennan

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Sir,-There has been much wild talk and there has been much lip service about Australia's greatest poet. We think that those of our readers who were friends of Brennan in his life, and the still larger number to whom he is an honoured name, will be glad to realise that there is no call for lamentation over the prospective loss of his work.

Brennan, before his death, had the insight to make one of his dearest and loyalest friends, R. Innes Kay, his literary executor, and Mr. Kay's loyal and thorough stewardship has prevented any ill-judged, sporadic, and inaccurate publication of Brennan's work, and has prepared the public for the edition of the forthcoming Brennan omnibus. The editing of this omnibus will be in the hands of a committee, Messrs. R. Innes Kay, J. J. Quinn, and C. H. Kaeppel, with Miss Kate Egan, treasurer, and Miss K. Donovan, secretary, It will include every surviving thing that Brennan has written, with the possible exception of his lectures on the Homeric question and his compositions in German, which have now only an antiquarian interest. The omnibus would have appeared long since, but for the difficulty in securing a small portion (not more than ten per cent.) of Brennan's work that was in the hands of others. But the committee felt, and rightly, that the omnibus should be definitive.

There is another matter to which with great happiness we refer. All lovers of Brennan's work have noted the irresistible songfulness of some of his lyrics. No one has noticed it better than Mr. Horace Keats. It has been our privilege to hear his first scores of "The Wanderer" cycle. Properly to appraise them, would, we think, take a Strangways. We would only say we recall the singing fairy of "Midsummer Night's Dream," and, that hearing them, we heard the fusion of two artists -- the poet and the musician. That these gems of art will be heard in England and America it is good to know, but we may be acquitted of any parochialism if we are avowedly glad that they will be heard first in Australia -- at the forthcoming series of lectures on Brennan, all of which will conclude with selections from the Wanderer cycle, played by Mr. Keats and sung by his gifted wife, so well known by her platform name, Miss Barbara Russell.

I am, etc.,

Kathleen Donovan.

Hon. secretary, Chris Brennan Committee.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 September 1936

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

Editor's note: Editing by committee?  Sure, that will work.  Actually, I don't think the above-mentioned omnibus was ever finished.  The Verse of Christopher Brennan was published in 1960, edited by A.R. Chisholm and John Joseph Quinn, and The Prose of Christopher Brennan in 1962 from the same editors.

2011 Man Booker International Prize Finalists

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Every two years the Man Booker International Prize is awarded to a writer to acknowledge their career in fiction.  It is presented "to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language." 

In 2005 the award was presented to Ismail Kadare of Albania, in 2007 it went to Chinua Achebe of Nigeria, and in 2009 to Alice Munro of Canada.

The finalists for the 2011 prize have been announced as follows:

Wang Anyi (China)
Juan Goytisolo (Spain)
James Kelman (UK)
John le Carré (UK)
Amin Maalouf (Lebanon/France)
David Malouf (Australia)
Dacia Maraini (Italy)
Rohinton Mistry (India/Canada)
Philip Pullman (UK)
Marilynne Robinson (USA)
Philip Roth (USA)
Su Tong (China)
Anne Tyler (USA)

Since the announcement of this list John le Carré has requested that he be withdrawn from consideration for the prize. 

The winner will be named at the Sydney Writers' Festival on May 18th.

Australian Bookcovers #251 - The Remake by Clive James

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The Remake by Clive James, 1987
Cover by Alan Brooks
Jonathan Cape edition 1987

Shaun Tan and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize

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Just when Shaun Tan probably thought it was safe to put his head back out into the world he is presented with another prize, this time the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize.  This is an international children's award and possibly the largest in terms of prize money.  It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

By the way, you might remember that Sonya Hartnett also won this award back in 2008.

2010 Aurealis Awards Finalists

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The finalists for the 2010 Aurealis Awards have been announced.  These jury-judged awards were set up to honour the best Australian sf, fantasy, horror and young adult works.  The finalists are:

Best Children's Fiction (told primarily through words)

Grimsdon, Deborah Abela (Random House)
Ranger's Apprentice #9: Halt's Peril, John Flanagan (Random House)
The Vulture of Sommerset, Stephen M. Giles (Pan Macmillan)
The Keepers, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)
Haggis MacGregor and the Night of the Skull, Jen Storer & Gug Gordon (Penguin/Aussie Nibbles)

Best Children's Fiction (told primarily through pictures)

Night School, Isobelle Carmody & Anne Spudvilas (Viking)
Magpie, Luke Davies & Inari Kiuru (ABC Books)
The Boy and the Toy, Sonya Hartnett & Lucia Masciullo (Viking)
Precious Little, Julie Hunt, Sue Moss & Gaye Chapman (Allen & Unwin)
The Cloudchasers, David Richardson & Steven Hunt (ABC Books)

Young Adult Short Story

"Inksucker", Aidan Doyle (Worlds Next Door)
"One Story, No Refunds", Dirk Flinthart (Shiny #6)
"A Thousand Flowers", Margo Lanagan (Zombies Vs. Unicorns)
"Nine Times", Kaia Landelius & Tansy Rayner Roberts (Worlds Next Door)
"An Ordinary Boy", Jen White (The Tangled Bank)

Best Young Adult Novel

Merrow, Ananda Braxton-Smith (black dog books)
Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey (Allen & Unwin)
The Midnight Zoo, Sonya Hartnett (Penguin)
The Life of a Teenage Body‐Snatcher, Doug MacLeod (Penguin)
Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin)

Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel

Shakespeare's Hamlet, Nicki Greenberg (Allen & Unwin)
EEEK!: Weird Australian Tales of Suspense, Jason Paulos et al (Black House Comics)
Changing Ways Book 1, Justin Randall (Gestalt)
Five Wounds: An Illustrated Novel, Jonathan Walker & Dan Hallett (Allen & Unwin)
Horrors: Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators, Rocky Wood & Glenn Chadbourne (McFarlane & Co.)

Best Collection

The Library of Forgotten Books, Rjurik Davidson (PS Publishing)
Under Stones, Bob Franklin (Affirm Press)
Sourdough and Other Stories, Angela Slatter (Tartarus)
The Girl With No Hands, Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga)
Dead Sea Fruit, Kaaron Warren (Ticonderoga)

Best Anthology

Macabre: A Journey Through Australia's Darkest Fears
, Angela Challis & Dr. Marty Young, eds. (Brimstone)
Sprawl, Alisa Krasnostein, ed. (Twelfth Planet Press)
Scenes from the Second Storey, Amanda Pillar & Pete Kempshall, eds. (Morrigan)
Godlike Machines, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (SF Book Club)
Wings of Fire, Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon, eds. (Night Shade Books)

Best Horror Short Story

"Take the Free Tour", Bob Franklin (Under Stones)
"Her Gallant Needs", Paul Haines (Sprawl)
"The Fear", Richard Harland (Macabre: A Journey Through Australia's Darkest Fears)
"Wasting Matilda", Robert Hood (Zombie Apocalypse!)
"Lollo", Martin Livings (Close Encounters of the Urban Kind)

Best Horror Novel

After the World: Gravesend
, Jason Fischer (Black House Comics)
Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson (Orbit)
Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott (Pan Macmillan)

Best Fantasy Short Story

"The Duke of Vertumn's Fingerling", Elizabeth Carroll (Strange Horizons)
"Yowie", Thoraiya Dyer (Sprawl)
"The February Dragon", L.L. Hannett & Angela Slatter (Scary Kisses)
"All the Clowns in Clowntown," Andrew McKiernan (Macabre: A Journey Through Australia's Darkest Fears)
"Sister, Sister", Angela Slatter (Strange Tales III)

Best Fantasy Novel

The Silence of Medair, Andrea K Höst (self-­published)
Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson (Orbit)
Stormlord Rising, Glenda Larke (Harper Voyager)
Heart's Blood, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan)
Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Harper Voyager)

Best Science Fiction Short Story

"The Heart of a Mouse", K.J. Bishop (Subterranean Online Winter 2010)
"The Angaelian Apocalypse", Matthew Chrulew (The Company Articles Of Edward Teach/The Angaelian Apocalypse)
"Border Crossing," Penelope Love (Belong)
"Interloper", Ian McHugh (Asimov's January 2011)
"Relentless Adaptations", Tansy Rayner Roberts (Sprawl)

Best Science Fiction Novel

Song of Scarabaeus
, Sara Creasy (EOS)
Mirror Space, Marianne de Pierres (Orbit)
Transformation Space, Marianne de Pierres (Orbit)

The winners of the award will be announced on May 21, 2011 in Sydney.

Poem: Roderic Quinn by E. J. Brady

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No more will Rod his lyrics sing,
   As tuneful as the thrush when Spring
With minstrel voice is calling;
   As joyous as the gentle chime
Of bellbirds in the Summertime
   From sylvan spires down-falling.

The harp is mute from which he drew
   The magic of a music new
Of woods and golden beaches;
   Its silent strings tell ne'er again
Enraptured tales of hill and plain
   And gleaming river reaches.
But this fair land shall ever be
   Indebted to his minstrelsy,
So, written on the portal
   Of Art's proud temple, will his name
Go down forevermore in fame
   Untarnished and immortal.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 October 1949

Note: the subject of this poem is the poet Roderic Quinn (1867-1949).

Reprint: The Australian Novel

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A colonist in England offered an article on Australian literature to a London editor; and-- 'There is no Australian Literature!' was the great man's response. Such is the hard saying of a writer in a London magazine, who gives the painful anecdote as a record of fact. Doubtless the story is true but was the editor's hasty verdict true? In any case, the dilemma seems awkward. The idea that this great country should not yet have established any thing worthy of being called a national literature is sad to think on; that the thing should in fact exist, but still should be unknown to a typical director of English thought, is sad also, but less vitally important. Recognition will come in time if it be duly earned. It seems only the other day that the American novelists-- not being humorists--known to British readers were but two or three in number, and now England and Australia are flooded with the fictional output of the United States. It will be long before this younger country can show such a result; indeed, any considerable output does not exist here. It will be understood that prose fiction is more particularly alluded to. A whole continent could not fail to produce volumes of ethnographical enquiry, records of scientific research-- books which could be written nowhere else, and in which the thing said greatly outweighs the mere manner of saying it; and these are received with respectful attention all over the world-- among the limited class to whom they appeal. The younger school of poets; too, have, by their freshness and vigour, found a widespread audience, and are further encouraged, and meanwhile practically sustained, by the happy fact that Australia itself reads, and buys, their work. The same cannot be said of local novelists. The demand for new fiction, enormous as it is, is well supplied by English and American writers, and readers actually prefer the imported article to the home grown. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Australian, writers, while readily publishing their poems here, will generally go to London to print their novels.

Is it a fact, then, that the imported article swamps the local product? Fortunately the most rabid of Protectionists would never advocate the shutting out of all fiction from beyond the seas, so that prentice hands in the Commonwealth might be encouraged by the absence of skilled competition. In the world of letters freetrade rules without dispute. The talent of country must find its own way to success. One may fairly enquire, in this connection, what result the literary societies of this State can show for their tentative efforts to encourage individual production. Their powerful and well-conducted union-- probably the strongest body of its kind in Australia -- invites competition each year in the art of writing an essay, a poem, and a short story. Of the verses nothing need be said; poets are not apt to write to order, and the verse would be produced--prize or no prize-- if its author felt the inspiration. The art of criticism, on the other hand, can be greatly stimulated by a little encouragement, such as is properly given to it if the essay takes the form of original thought rather than criticism, it is equally welcome. Even though the result may not be conspicuously successful in either case, there is a distinct value to the writer in the effort he has made to appraise the work of others, or to produce fresh ideas from his own mind. The case of fiction stands by itself. It is difficult to see benefit to any one whomsoever in the production of a really poor story. The author obtains none, and if his work does not give pleasure to others his labour is lost. Still, practice is necessary here as in other fields of endeavour. The art of waiting dialogue, for example, needs much practice if the beginner is to avoid triviality on the one side and an unnatural, epigrammatic brilliance on the other. In those circumstances it would be supposed that the prize winners in the Union competitions, stimulated by the one success, would persevere and improve. Is there any record of their continuing in the public view, of their rising on stepping stones of the first triumph, and making their names known as coming story writers? There seem to be practically none. Yet the world wants fiction, and is willing to pay for it.

The Australian writer, whether of novels or of short stories, appears to have a special chance open to him. Mr. Balfour pointed out, in a recent speech at Edinburgh, that the disease from which the British novel may expect to suffer is atrophy. Everything is written about-- not a topic escapes the eagle eye of the romancer. The heavens above and the earth beneath are ran- sacked for subjects, and the ocean has its special scribes. Every country and every period has been dealt with. We have stories of life civilized, semicivilized, and barbarous, natural and supernatural. Already, through paucity of material, the vein of the unknown future is being worked. Are we not rushing headlong to the time when all subjects will be exhausted, and hundreds of literary Alexanders will sigh in vain for more worlds to conquer? Well, this continent is still a comparatively unexplored literary field. Henry Kingsley used it as a background for two delightful romances, and "Rolf Boldrewood" has followed his example. Incidients of early settlement have been told in the guise of fiction by Marcus Clarke in his one great book, and -- to come nearer home-- by Mr. Simpson Newland in "Paving the Way." Just so, until recently, did American novels deal by choice with the emigrant wagon, the 'Forty-niners of California. Now the strenuous modern life of the United States finds its chroniclers everywhere. Here, as there, a new nation is waiting to be depicted -- young, strong, fond of sport and the open air, reckless in love or in speculation; and of it English and American writers perforce know nothing. Mr. Hornung alone draws heavily on a former residence here. Even Rudyard Kipling takes no advantage of his brief visit. From authors, Australian by birth or long residence, good work begins to flow. Ethel Turner's stories of childlife have a wide reputation. "Such is Life," by Tom Collins; "True Eyes and the Whirl wind," by Randolph Bedford; "Tussock Land," by A. H. Adams; "The Antipodeans," by Mayne Lindsay -- here are four books of the past 12 months which can be tried by a high standard; but two of them depict life far removed from cities, and one is half-English in its scene. There is plenty of room to find a hero in the town-bred Australian of to-day. He knows nothing of convicts, and very little of bushrangers, but very much of commercial and professional life, of the Stock Exchange, and the cricket ground. The woolshed and the wild kangaroo have their interest, but many thousands of Australians have never seen either. The discerning eye can discover, and the skilled hand may impart, a distinctive "local colour" which need have nothing whatever to do with the bush.

First published in The Register, 19 November 1904

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

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