August 2011 Archives

2011 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards Shortlists

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The shortlisted works for the 2011 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards were recently released.

The shortlisted works are:

Fiction Book Award

Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks (HarperCollins)
Reading Madame Bovary, Amanda Lohrey (Black Inc.)
Roddy Parr, Peter Rose (HarperCollins)
That Deadman Dance, Kim Scott (Pan Macmillan)
The English Class, Ouyang Yu (Transit Lounge Publishing)

Emerging Queensland Author - Manuscript Award

From Winter or River
, Andrea Dudley
The Beloved, Annah Lee Faulkner
Empty Beach, Bruce Nash
At Mother's Elbow, Sally Piper
The Arc, Ross Watkins

Unpublished Indigenous Writer - Arts Queensland David Unaipon Award

Clear Water White Death: Storm on the Horizon, Dylan Coleman
'Mazin' Grace, Dylan Coleman
Skin Deep, Brenda Saunders

Non-Fiction Book Award

Singing Saltwater Country: Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria, John Bradley (Allen & Unwin)
Guantanamo: My Journey, David Hicks (Random House)
Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania's Forests, Anna Krien (Black Inc.)
When It Rains: A Memoir, Maggie MacKellar (Random House)
An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark, Mark McKenna (The Miegunyah Press)

History Book - Faculty of Arts, University of Queensland Award

Good Living Street: The Fortunes of My Viennese Family, Tim Bonyhady (Allen & Unwin)
A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain's Convict Disaster in Africa and How it Led to the Settlement of Australia, Emma Christopher (Allen & Unwin)
Northern Voyagers: Australia's Monsoon Coast in Maritime History, Alan Powell (Australian Scholarly Publishing)
Savage or Civilised?: Manners in Colonial Australia, Penny Russell (University of New South Wales Press)
The Many Worlds of R.H. Mathews: In Search of an Australian Anthropologist, Martin Thomas (Allen & Unwin)

Children's Book - Mary Ryan's Award

Just a Dog, Michael Gerard Bauer (Omnibus Books)
Henry Hoey Hobson, Christine Bongers (Random House)
The Staring Owl, Luke Edwards (Omnibus Books)
Bill Rules, Elizabeth Fensham (University of Queensland Press)
Waiting for Later, Tina Matthews (Walker Books)

Young Adult Book Award

Graffiti Moon, Cath Crowley (Pan Macmillan)
The Golden Day, Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen & Unwin)
Big River, Little Fish, Belinda Jeffrey (University of Queensland Press)
Being Here, Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin)
To Die For, Mark Svendsen (Woolshed Press)

Science Writer Award

Feeling the Heat, Jo Chandler (Melbourne University Press)
Voyage to the Planets - Episodes 1, 2 and 3 - Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, Richard Smith (Essential Media and Entertainment)
Medicinal Plants in Australia: Volume 1 Bush Pharmacy, Cheryll Williams (Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd)
Eucalypts: A Celebration, John Wrigley and Murray Fagg (Allen & Unwin)

Poetry Collection - Arts Queensland Judith Wright Calanthe Award

Burning Bright, Caroline Caddy (Fremantle Press)
Lines for Birds: Poems & Paintings, Barry Hill and John Wolseley (UWA Publishing)
You Can Get Only So Close On Google Earth, Ann Shenfield (Australian Scholarly Publishing)
Starlight: 150 Poems, John Tranter (University of Queensland Press)

Australian Short Story Collection - Arts Queensland Steele Rudd Award

The Source of the Sound
, Patrick Holland (Salt Publishing)
Reading Madame Bovary, Amanda Lohrey (Black Inc.)
Other Stories, Wayne Macauley (Black Pepper Publishing)
Known Unknowns, Emmett Stinson (Affirm Press)

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

Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania's Forests
, Anna Krien (Black Inc)
Quarterly Essay 38: Power Trip - The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd, David Marr (Black Inc.)
Quarterly Essay 40: Trivial Pursuit - Leadership and the End of the Reform Era, George Megalogenis (Black Inc.)
Leaky Boat, Victoria Midwinter Pitt (Matchbox Pictures)
Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy, Lindsay Tanner (Scribe Publications)

Film Script - Screen Queensland Award

The Hunter, Alice Addison (Porchlight Films)
Here I Am, Beck Cole (Scarlett Pictures Pty Ltd)
Snowtown, Shaun Grant (Warp Films Australia)

Drama Script (Stage) Award - Griffith University Creative Writing Program Award

April's Fool, David Burton (Playlab Press)
Bang, Jonathan Gavin
MOTH, Declan Greene
Life Without Me, Daniel Keene (Currency Press Pty Ltd)
Head Full of Love, Alana Valentine

Television Script - QUT Creative Industries Award

Charles Bean's Great War, Wain Fimeri (360 Degree Films)
Offspring - Episode 109, Jonathan Gavin (Southern Star John Edwards)
Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo - Part 1, Christopher Lee (Southern Star John Edwards)
Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo - Part 2, Christopher Lee (Southern Star John Edwards)
East West 101 - The Hero's Standard - Season 3, Episode 14, Michael Miller (East West 101 Season 3 Pty Limited)

The winners will be announced on 6th September 2011.

Australian Bookcovers #271 - The Boys in the Island by C.J. Koch

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The Boys in the Island (revised edition) by C.J. Koch, 1974
Cover illustration by Robin Mudie
Sirius edition 1979

The winners of the 2011 Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Winners were announced recently

The winners in the categories were:

Older Readers Book of the Year

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett (Viking)

Honour Books:

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley (Pan Macmillan)

The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher by Doug MacLeod (Penguin Books)

Younger Readers Book of the Year

The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody (Viking)

Honour Books:

Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer (Omnibus Books)

Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford. Illus: Sarah Davis (Walker Books)

Early Childhood Book of the Year

Maudie and Bear by Jam Omerod. Illus: Freya Blackwood (Little Hare Books)

Honour Books:

The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies by Tom Niland Champion and Kilmeny Niland. Illus: Deborah Niland (Allen & Unwin)

Look See, Look at Me by Leonie Norrington. Illus: Dee Huxley (Allen & Unwin)

Picture Book of the Year

Mirror by Jeannie Baker (Walker Books)

Hamlet by Nicki Greenburg (Allen & Unwin)

Honour Books:

Why I Love Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft (Little Hard Books)

My Uncle's Donkey by Tohby Riddle (Viking)

Eve Pownall Book of the Year

The Return of the Word Spy by Ursula Dubosarsky. Illus: Tohby Riddle (Viking)

Honour Books:

Drawn From the Heart: A Memoir by Ron Brooks (Allen & Unwin)

Our World: Bardi Jaawi: Life at Ardiyooloon by One Arm Point Remote Community School (Magabala Books)

Poem: The Busted Bard: A Tragedy in Six Spasms by C. J. Dennis

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A bard one Spring did blithely sing
   Sing hey for a lilting lay, sing hey!
"I'll write a rhyme with a right good ring."
   Sing ho for a journey in the inky way!
With dictionaries bound in tan,
With pen and paper he began.
And oh, he was so spick and span.
Sing ho down derry for a literary man!
   For a lilting lay sing hey!

"Dear me," quoth he, "now let me see;"
   Sing hey for a lilting lay, sing hey!
"My masterpiece this thing must be."
   Sing ho for a treader in the inky way!
"A theme that's somewhat fresh to find
I'll exercise my mighty mind.
Now come, ye muses, pray be kind.
Sing hey down derry for the literary grind!
   For a lilting lay sing hey!"

"Ah, ha!  Hurrah!  Also Huzzah!
   Sing hey for a lilting lay, sing hey!
Eureka!  Likewise Ha, ha, ha!
   Sing ho for a header in the inky way!
I have it!  Just the very thing!
'Tis inspiration!  Now to sing
About the new-born babe of Spring.
Sing ho, with a literary ting-a-ling-a-ling!
   For a lilting lay sing hey!"

E'er this was read, I should have said
   Sing hey for a lilting lay sing hey!
The bard had influ. in his head.
   Sing ho for a treader in the inky way!
He sought to find a rhyme for babe.
Cried he:  "Id is ad awful shabe!
Alas!  Alack!  Cad this be fabe?
Sig ho, dowd derry for the literary gabe,
   For a lildig lay sig hey!"

In haste he took each rhyming book,
   Sing hey for a lilting lay, sing hey!
And found 'twas waste of time to look.
   Sing ho for a plodder in the inky way!
But still he sought, and sought and sought.
Alack, he thought there surely ought
To be a rhyme -- but found he naught.
Sing hey down derry; he was literally caught.
   For a lilting lay sing hey!

So, by his lot be warned: I wot
   Sing hey for a lilting lay, sing hey!
'Tis vain to search for what is not.
   Sing ho for wallow in the inky way.
Alas, there is no rhyme for babe.
Said he: "I thought to make a nabe
Ad dow I cah'd; but all the sabe --
Sig, hey dowd derry for the literary gabe.
   For a lilting lay, sig hey."

First published in The Critic, 28 June 1905

Reprint: On Climbing Trees: Satire by C. J. Dennis

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"The Glugs of Gosh." By C. J. Dennis, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, Ltd. 

What is a Glug? Mr. Dennis supplies a definition in his new book. A Glug is a familiar creature -- so familiar that any town might well be called Gosh. Few can escape the impeachment of Mr. Dennis. His book is like a mirror, and he who looks into it will see his reflection, perhaps more or less distorted to his mind, but nevertheless a reflection of some sort. At least he will admit the sincerity with which his neighbor is pictured, even though he denies his own gluggishness. In "The Glugs of Gosh" Mr. Dennis has broken away from the style of "The Sentimental Bloke'' and "Ginger Mick." The idiom he uses is more fanciful than colloquial, although the popularity of the writer will doubtless ensure the wide adoption of some of the terms he happily invents. Mr. Dennis has been wise in discarding his earlier style. It has served its purpose, and it is fittingly preserved in the two works mentioned and in "Doreen." The new book, is delightful in every way. It may not pain so much public favor as its predecessors, but it stands as the best that has yet come from the pen of its author. In satire "The Glugs of Gosh" is rich. Mr. Dennis shoots his pointed shafts with unerring aim. His sentences do not spare the glugs, or the swanks, but they are dressed up so whimsically and fall into such a merry rhythm that they carry something of a cure with them. And the cure is the best of cures, for it makes all, with a vestige of humor, laugh at themselves. They are fortunate glugs who can laugh at themselves, even if they must continue to "climb the trees when the weather is wet to see how high they can really get."'

The philosophy of Mr. Dennis is reminiscent of some of that lighter reasoning which colored certain stanzas of the old Tentmaker of Naishapur. It is the philosophy which points to the joy of the world around us. The writer pulls us down from the trees we are climbing and urges us to look around. There are the fields, the blue skies and golden sunshine, and the little blue wren. And still to climb trees when the weather is wet is a human practice. The lesson of "The Glugs of Gosh" is a good one, and couched in agreeable poetry -- poetry which is strikingly fine in places. But the main charm of the book is its quaint and fanciful humor. Mr. Dennis carries the reader along at a gallop -- a rare exhilarating gallop. The bells of his rhyme tinkle musically and sweet, and in Gilbertian rhythm he sings his song.  

For one in search of a Glug Mr. Dennis has many directions. His whims have full play, and his poesy is dominant:-

   On a white, still night, where the dead tree-bends
      Over the track like a waiting ghost,
   Travel the winding raid that wends 
      Down to the shore on an eastern coast.
   Follow it down where the wake of the moon
      Kisses the ripples of silver sand;  
   Follow it on where the night seas croon   
     A traveller's tale to the listening land.

Then it is necessary to wait until the wash of the thirteenth wave "tumbles a jellyfish out at your feet." But if the fish proves disappointing and ''sneers in your face like a fish possessed," there are other ways. You can "wait till the clock in the tower booms three,'' and then proceed until you halt

   By the carrier's horse with the long sad face
      And the wisdom of years in his mournful eye;
   Bow to him thrice with a courtier's grace,
      Proffer your query, and pause for reply.

If the melancholy equine should be as reticent as the jellyfish, there are still other ways. You may wait till "the blood of a slain day reddens the west,"

      Choose you a night when the intímate stars
   Carelessly prattle of cosmic affairs.

The author warns you that "Who finds not, 'tis he shall be found;" and then passes to his tale of Gosh:-  

   The Glugs abide in a far, far land ,
   That is partly pebbles and stones and sand,
   But mainly earth, of a chocolate hue,
   When it isn't purple or slightly blue.
   And the Glugs live there with aunts and wives,
   In draught-proof tenements all their lives.

And, in addition to their exercises under uncongenial conditions, they

      . . Climb the trees when the weather is hot,
   For a bird's-eye view of the garden plot.  
      Of course, it's rot, 
   But they love that view of the garden plot. 

The Glugs press a peculiar trade in stones with the Ogs from the land of Podge. But, meanwhile, there is born to an unGluggish Glug named Joi a son, who is christened Sym. And Joi gives his son good advice. 

   Said he. "Whenever the fields are green,    
   Lie still, where the wild rose fashions a screen,  
   While the brown thrush calls to his love-wise mate,
   And know what they profit who trade with hate."
   Said he, "Whenever the great skies spread,
   In the beckoning vastness overhead,
   A tent for the blue wren building a nest,
   Then down in the heart of you, learn what's best."

So while the Glugs listen to the "song of the Guffer Bird, or chase the Feasible Dog, as so many are wont to do, Sym grows up in wisdom, and becomes a tinker who delights to sit with his back to a tree and sing his own rhymes. When Joi develops revolutionary tendencies, and suggests the assassination of King Splosh, they hang him on a Snufflebust Palm. The Swanks then flourish, and swathe themselves in red tape, and the Lord Swank swaddles "his portly shape like a large, insane cocoon." These "minute-writing, nation-blighting" Swanks are plentiful in Gosh.

   They lurk in every Gov'ment lair,
      'Mid docket dull and dusty file,
   Solemnly squat in an easy chair,  
   Penning a minute of rare hot air
      In departmental style.
   In every office, on every floor,
   Are Swanks, and Swanks, distracting Swanks,
         And acting Swanks a score,
   And coldly distant, sub-assistant,
         Under Swanks galore.

In Gosh there is an old volume rare that nobody asks for, heeds, or reads, which fact "makes it a classic, famed through the land." In this book there is a prophecy that when Gosh is in danger a rhyming tinker may be its saviour. Gosh is in danger, and the Mayor of Quog discovers Sym, and drags him into public life. Sym creates a sensation with rhymes, but the cunning Sir Stodge overthrows him in debate. So Sym goes off with his little red dog, content to be free of the Glugs again. There dawns a day when Gosh is literally "stony broke," and then the scheme of the Ogs is revealed. They attack Gosh with the stones which they have gained in trade.

   And the first of the stones, hit poor Mr. Ghones,
      The captain of industry.

Protests are uttered against this un- gluggish behaviour--

   But the warlike Ogs, they hurled great rocks,
   Thro' the works of the wonderful eight day clocks
      They had sold to the Glugs but a month before,
      Which was very absurd; but, of course, 'twas war.

When the Ogs retire, declaring their victory, King Splosh sends for Sym. But the rhymester will have no more of politics. He is happy with his Emily Ann, and content to leave Splosh to his own troubles. The tale of Gosh ends with Sym's song:

   Kettles and pans! Ho, kettles and pans!
   The stars are the gods, but the earth, it is man's!
      Yet down in the shadow dull mortals there are
      Who climb in the tree-tops to snatch at a star:
   Seeking content and a surcease of care,
   Finding but emptiness everywhere.
   Then make for the mountain, importunate man!
   With a kettle to mend . . and your Emily Ann." 

There is one more couplet:  

   As he cocked a sad eye o'er a sheltering log,
   "Oh, a Glog is a Glug!" sighed the little red dog.

Whether the reader looks for lesson or laughter, "The Glugs of Gosh" is well worth while. There are some capital illustrations with brush and pen by Mr. Hal Gye. Mr. Gye has happily caught and expressed the whimsical spirit of the verse-maker.

First published in The Advertiser, 27 October 1917

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

2011 Hugo Award Winners

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The winners of the 2011 Hugo Awards (reader nominated and voted awards for the sf and fantasy fields) were announced in Reno, at the World Science Fiction Convention, over the weekend.  From those Australians nominated in the various categories the sole winner was Shaun Tan as Best Professonal Artist.

Great Australian Authors #45 - C. J. Dennis

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C. J. Dennis (1876-1938)

This photo was taken in Toolangi, Victoria, in 1917.

Reprint: Vale "Den" by R. R. Perry

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   Livin' and lovin'; learning to fergive
   The deeds and words of some un'appy bloke
   Who's missed the bus -- so 'ave I come to live
   And take the 'ole mad world as 'arf a joke.

That was the philosophy of life of C. J .Dennis, poet, journalist, amateur carpenter, and deep student of human nature, who died in Melbourne on Wednesday, June 22, aged 62. Dennis -- or "Den" as he was affectionately known to thousands -- was born in Auburn, South Australia, in 1876. He was the son of a retired master mariner, and early in his boyhood showed an aptitude for writing verse. He joined the staff of the Critic in Adelaide in 1897, became its editor in 1904, and later founded the Gadfly. In between this newspaper work he wrote and published many volumes of verses, covering a wide field. The first of these was "Backblock Ballads" (1913). "The Sentimental Bloke" followed in 1913. It was when he wrote of "The Bloke" or Ginger Mick that his appeal was widest, for in these he put into words the thoughts that many an uneducated man might feel but could never hope to express.  He was a lover of mankind, and his deep belief in the inherent goodness of men and women found expression in most of his verses. In the "Glugs of Gosh" he had a sly dig, which went over the heads of many. I mention the work merely by way of indicating his versatility, which, indeed, needs no emphasis for those countless readers of his daily verses written at short notice on every conceivable subject. He was to the average Australian what O. O. Mclntyre was to the average American reader, except that Dennis, wrote in verse and O.O. (who also died recently) in prose gossip. Both had been through lean times; both wrote their way into the hearts of the people because of their wide sympathies, their ability to see into the hearts of men and women.

First published in The Queenslander, 29 June 1938

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

Australian Bookcovers #270 - Across the Sea Wall by C. J. Koch

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Across the Sea Wall by C. J. Koch, 1965
Cover illustration: Krishna and Radha on a Terrace at Night from Kishangarh School 1760
Imprint edition 1990

Poem: Bush Book Club by Francis Kenna

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It's a little thing is a book that is read,
   To those in the range of the city marts;
Where the rush of books is continuous
   In shops or the School of Arts.

A book that is done with is flung aside,
   For others are ready their part to play,
The lumber room is the doom of some,
   And some the boiler on washing day.

But out in the heart of the lonely bush
   There is many a girl and many a boy,
And many a toil worn woman, who
   Will welcome your cast-off books with joy.

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 25 October 1930

Reprint: Lawson's Latest

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"Stokin' and Other Verses," by Will Lawson, is characterised by vigour and lucidity. It is a relief to get hold of something robust without being exaggerated, and clear without being unpoetical. The union is not a common one. Poetry too frequently has an air of aloofness. One is often at a loss to know what is troubling the writer and what is wrong with the world at large. Also it seems that there is no great concern in life but "passion." Will Lawson has the commonsense to see the proportions of the things of the world as they are; he has seen them with clear eyes and writes of what he understands. The poetic gift cannot be put to any higher use and produce more readable and arresting matter than, for instance, in "Stokin'" and "Trimmin' Coal."

   "For the stoker gets the down-draught,
      And the greasers have the fan,
         But the bunkers
         (Steamer's bunkers)
      Ain't no place to put a man.
   There's the darkness that you see there,
      And the darkness that you feel,
   And the everlastin' grindin'
      Of the coal beneath your heel.
   Up on deck the men and women
      Laugh to feel her easy roll--
   They don't know the way we're trimmin'
      At the cruel slidin' coal."

The contrasted lines that are jumbled together on a steamer are again powerfully suggested in

  "You praise your gallant skipper and skilful engineers;
   The A.B. is a hero who squints one eye and steers;
   The ladies like the moonlight and officers to chaff;
   They haven't any tickets on us, the stoke-hole staff,
   Who keep the boilers hummin' and funnel-flues a-roar,
   With blisterin' steel above us and on a blisterin' floor.  
   They're laughin' on the main deck, but I would like to know
   If they are ever thinkin' of the men who toil below."

The writer keeps his feet on the solid earth all through the book. He has the eye to see, the heart to understand and the graphic pen to describe. Even most people, who say they cannot read poetry would be able to spend an hour or two in Lawson's company with real pleasure and, who knows, some profit-if that is not an objection. The terseness, strength, and condensed descriptiveness of the phrasing is a most prominent feature.    

With the exception of one or two pieces, which are not to be taken seriously, one never, or hardly ever, strikes a weak line. It is not exaggeration to say they quiver with life. Sometimes, too, there are lines like "And her eyes were a song unsung," which is as beautiful as it is suggestive. Lawson has no attention to spare for intangible things. He deals with the things that one feels and sees. Kipling has not a more pictorial quality in his work. There is, by the way, a slight inclination to bring in technical terms in places, which is a good thing to avoid as far as possible. Australian poets have been much enjoined to employ local colours, and the result has been rather too much and too wearisome, an insistence on the eucalyptus flavour. Lawson has avoided this and yet kept his work true to the character south of the line.

"Ladies in the Engine Boom" is just exactly what many and many a dispirited and wondering engine-room man must have thought. The poem carries conviction with it, and is just as good vernacular poetry as it is genuine human nature. There are examples of literary men who have used their gift of insight for nothing more than exhibition purposes -- who in fact seem rather to regard the lives of other people as only given to the possessors for the sake of furnishing authors with copy. But "Ladies in the Engine Room" has that peculiar inward note of identification with the subject of the verses which cannot be assumed. It is nature and art in unusual combination. It is a slight thing, perhaps, but it is perfect of its kind. The whole book has a brisk and gripping quality (Wellington, N.Z., Gordon and Gotch.)

First published in the Western Mail, 20 March 1909

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

Great Australian Authors #44 - Will Lawson

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will lawson.jpg

Will Lawson (1876-1957)

Reprint: Letter to the Editor: River Voyaging by Will Lawson

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Sir,-The recent successful republication of "The Sentimental Bloke" suggests that there are other Australian books which would be welcomed -- books out of print for long years.

In connection with the Sturt celebrations, such books as E. J. Brady's "River Rovers," a story of a voyage by boat, and C. E. W. Bean's "Dreadnought of the Darling" would be welcomed.

It seems to me that the arrangements for re-enacting this long boat voyage by Sturt should be handled by older men. The young men of to-day know nothing of these great rivers, yet there are still rivermen in old ports along the Murray whose knowledge and experience would make the boat trip something more than just a rowing effort.

There are many wrong ideas held about the river. For example, it was announced last week that a man would voyage in a canoe down the Tumut River into the Murrumbidgee and that this would be the first time such a thing had been done.

In 1936, when I made a round voyage in a river steamer, the Wanare, gathering material for my book, "Old Man Murray," we met off Rufous Reach a lad in a canoe who had come from Tumut. He was about 16 years old and had little food with him, yet insisted that he must finish his journey unaided.

On our return voyage from Mildura we overtook him in rainy weather. Again he was invited on board, but insisted he must complete his voyage from Tumut to Adelaide in his canoe.

"But the river don't go near Adelaide," the skipper said. "Come on, get aboard and nobody will know."

He came on board, very tired, had a meal, and slept well on bags laid against the boiler, where his clothes soon dried. Next day he went on his way and reached Goolwa safely. His was a marvellous voyage.

Referring again to river books, the first Australian writer to write of the Murray was Price Warung, years ago, in a series of short stories.

WILL LAWSON. Northbridge.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 December 1950

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

Australian Bookcovers #269 - Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings

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Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings, 2002
Jacket design: Julian Humphries
Picador edition, 2002

2011 John Button Prize Shortlist

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The shortlist for the 2011 John Button Prize has been announced.  "The John Button Prize seeks to enhance the quality of public policy writing and debate in Australia" and is named after the late Victorian Labour Senator.

The shortlisted works are:

Power Shift: Australia's Future Between Washington and Beijing, Hugh White (Quarterly Essay)
There Goes the Neighbourhood: Australia and the Rise of Asia, Michael Wesley (UNSW Press)
Trivial Pursuit: Leadership and the End of the Reform Era, George Megalogenis (Quarterly Essay)
Successful Reform: Past Lessons, Future Challanges, Gary Banks (speech)

The winner will be announced on August 27 following the John Button Oration to be presented by retired High Court judge Michael Kirby during the Melbourne Writers' Festival.

Poem: The Mad Poet by Ernest O'Ferrall

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"I am the sun!" the poet yelled,
   And danced upon the strand.
"I am the sun!" He tightly held
   Some money in his hand;
"I gild the clouds with good red gold
   Each evening when I sink!
'Tis better far, so I am told,
   Than spending it on drink!"

"I am the moon!" he shouted then,
   And leaped with joy insane.
"I spill my silver freely when
   I've earned it with my brain;
It floats on water easily
   And winks up at the stars;
I'll rather drop it in the sea
   Than in the private bars!"

"Observe me gild the clouds!" (He cast
   A gold coin at the blue.)
"Here's moonlight!" (And a shilling passed
   And fell the sea into.)
"That's all I've got," the madman said;
   "Now, honest people, mark!
You'd better all go home to bed
   The whole world now is dark!"

First published in The Bulletin, 28 April 1910

Reprint: Dorothea Mackellar

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Amongst the many classical definitions of poetry it is not always possible to find one that just exactly describes a particular poet. For, after all, the definitions are by their nature general, while they also express more of the author's reaction to poetry than what the poets themselves are seeking to express. But, for the work of Dorothea Mackellar, Edgar Allan Poe surely found the perfectly fitting phrase when he described poetry as "the rhythmic creation of beauty."

From the first poem, which, when it appeared in the London "Spectator" about 20 years ago, attracted attention to her work, up to the latest work that she has done, Dorothea Mackellar has been creating sheer rhythmic beauty. Often quoted aa one of the most sincere and genuine expressions of an Australian's feeling for his country, this poem sings in simple lines of the elementary appeal of Australia:

   "I love a sunburnt country,
      A land of sweeping plains,
   Of ragged mountain ranges,
      Of droughts and flooding rains.
   I love her far horizons,
      I love her jewel-sea,
   Her beauty and her terror --
      The wide brown land for me!

   The stark white ring-barked forests,
      All tragic to the moon,
   The sapphire-misted mountains,
      The hot gold hush of noon.
   Green tangle of the brushes,  
      Where lithe lianas roll,
   And orchids deck the tree-tops
      And ferns the warm dark soil.

   Core of my heart, my country!
      Her pitiless blue sky,
   When sick at heart, around us,
      We see the cattle die --
   But then the grey clouds gather,
      And we can bless again
   The drumming of an army,
      The steady, soaking rain."

This poem is typical, with its simplicity and the vividness of its imagery, of the work of this poet, which as Miss Nettie Palmer remarks, "has been chiefly vivid and enthusiastic landscape painting." It is typical also in its expression of the limitation of the emotions of the poet. Enthusiastic as she is in her descriptions and in everything she writes, she seems never to have plumbed the depths of any great emotion.

The daughter of Sir Charles Mackellar, well-known as physician and legislator, Dorothea Mackellar has never known the struggle which has tried and tested many another poet. She was born in Sydney, educated privately and travelled extensively in Europe and America, Morocco and Egypt, China and Japan. Thus she is by no means parochial in her admiration for Australia. Nor is she limited in the sweep of her artistic vision. She is one of those who found a place in the group which the Vision Press sought to stimulate a few years ago. Several examples of her recent work are included in the Vision Press "Poetry in Australia in 1923." But although her verse is essentially personal in the universal sense, which makes the lyric, it lacks the strength of expression which comes from the experience of deep emotion.

Fanciful, charming, colourful, and vivid are adjectives which describe her most striking qualities. She has the simple and vivid imagination of a child, as when she sings, in "Magic"--

   "Crawling up the hillside,
      Swinging round the bay,
   With a ceaseless humming
      Ply the trams all day.

   When it's dark I linger
      Just to see the sight;
   All those jewelled beetles
      Flashing through the night!"

Dorothea Mackellar is always keenly conscious of the romance of common things. In "The Open Sea" she paints a vivid word-picture --

   "From my window I can see,
      Where the sandhills dip,
   One far glimpse of open sea.
      Just a slender slip
   Curving like a crescent moon --
      Yet a greater prize
   Than the harbour garden-fair
      Spread beneath my eyes."

Her later verse, even when it is concerned with the expression of thought as well as description, reveals the same childlike inconsequentiality. In "Waste" she tells of Swaying Moonflower, the potter's daughter, who rejected all the magnificent gifts brought by all the Sultans and Rajahs --

   "Her mind being set on Celestial things."

The point of the poem lies in the philosophical conclusion drawn at the waste involved in the rejection of these gifts, and is expressed in this way --

   "All the Rajahs and Sultans went
   Home with their disillusionment;
   All the presents she scorned were hurled
   (Tigers included) about the world;
   They mostly dropped them into the sea --
   But not even a turquoise was offered to me!
   I wish it had been -- I hate all waste,
   And nourish an earthly contemptible taste
   For peacock-shimmers and vanities
   But Swaying Moonflower was doubtless wise."

Dorothea Mackellar'a first book of poems, "The Closed Door and Other Verses," was published in Melbourne in 1911. It rapidly ran into four or five editions. Since then she has published another volume, "The Witch Maid and Other Verses" and much scattered verse. She has found a place in the Oxford "Book of Australian Verse" and in the "Children's Treasury of Australian Verse." Some of her best songs challenge comparison with some of the oldest and best as when in "Summer is Icumen In" she sings of--

   "The beautiful old simple songs
      That make us laugh and cry,
   That sing of dying loveliness,
      In words that cannot die:"

with its conclusion--

   "And Alisoun is dead long syne
      With him that called her fair,
   But love is just as sweet and fresh
      When spring is in the air;

   And though I must perforce be dumb
      Who have no skill to sing,
   I am as deep in love, in love,
      As is the year in spring!"

This is poetry, whch, without qualification, places Dorothea Mackellar high in the ranks of the poets of the world.

First published in The Morning Bulletin, 7 March 1931

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

2011 Ned Kelly Award Shortlists

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The shortlists for the 2011 Ned Kelly Awards have been released. As you will recall, these awards recognise excellence in Australian crime writing - fiction and true crime.

The shortlists are:

True Crime

Geesche Jacobson Abandoned - The Sad Death of Dianne Brimble Allen & Unwin
Ross Honeywill Wasted Penguin
Lindsay Simpson & Jennifer Cooke Honeymoon Dive Macmillan

Best First Fiction

Alan Carter Prime Cut Fremantle Press
David Whish-Wilson Line of Sight Penguin Books
P.M. Newton The Old School Penguin Books

Best Fiction

Angela Savage The Half-Child Text
Geoffrey McGeachin The Diggers Rest Hotel Penguin
Chris Womersley Bereft Scribe Publishing

SD Harvey Short Story

Robert Goodman Southern Hemisphere Blues
A.S. Patric Hemisphere Travel Guides: Las Vegas For Vegans

The awards will be presented on August 31st in Melbourne during the Writers' Festival.

Great Australian Authors #43 - Dorothea Mackellar

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Dorothea Mackellar (1885-1968)

Nick Earls Interview

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true_story_of_butterfish.jpg    Nick Earls, author of Zigzag Street, Bachelor Kisses and Perfect Skin, has branched out into the crime field with his latest novel, The True Story of Butterfish. He was recently interviewed for The Age by Linda Morris.
Earls's prolific oeuvre of 12 novels and two short-story collections has steadily built him an international reputation as a contemporary writer who makes comic yardage - from subtle irony to groan-out-loud gags - out of the emotional entanglements of decent men during episodes of self-evaluation and transformation: ''I knew these men in the world, people who thought a lot and sometimes talked a lot, thinkers to the point of overthinkers who sometimes underestimated their competence and often didn't realise their strengths and I had not seen them much in fiction.''

Joshua Lang, Earls's lead character, is an internet blogger trading in pop-culture trivia to pay the bills, and an occasional spin doctor willing to turn a blind eye to a tawdry secret or two, his ambitions of living the gonzo life long behind him.

Dogged by self-recriminations following a disastrous relationship, Lang is not so much mean as dispirited, morose with the choices he's made in life.

''I had a narrator who was a thinker and who could, in his own way, crack wise even if a lot of it stays inside, and I was aiming for a certain directness with the narration,'' Earls says. ''Maybe that puts Josh not a million miles from Philip Marlowe.''

Reprint: An Australian's Novel

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After collaborating with Miss Ruth Bedford in "The Little Blue Devil," Miss Dorothea Mackellar makes a successful debut as a novelist on her own account in "Outlaw's Luck." Here again Miss Mackellar shows ber penchant for out-of-the-way corners of the earth and deeds of derring-do, where dash and courage are conspicuous by their presence, and respect for the law, as often as not, conspicuous by its absence. The scene opens in the Argentine of a few years back, when each man was more or less a law unto himself. Here "Kid" Prevost, horse thief and gambler, whose guileless appearance conveys to the world quite an erroneous idea of his character, passes himself off as a "tenderfoot" at an English estancia, and carries away its horses. He also carries away Katherine, the sister of the owner, in order to conceal his tracks. After various vicissitudes, in which the "Kid" impresses his charm alike upon the reader and upon Katherine, the latter passes out of his lite, though not before her influence with that of his brother turns him towards the paths of virtue. He goes to Texas, where he becomes a blameless ranch owner, but the past still pursues him, and an unfortunate incident, in which a bowie knife plays a lethal part, makes him fly the country. In the end he suddenly falls in love, and marries a New York society girl, but even here happiness is denied him, for a postscript tells us how wife and child died, and "left 'Kid' quite grown up at last and broken." We feel that sad as such an ending is, it is the inevitable solution, for with all his good qualities it is impossible to imagine "Kid" a staid father of a family. The book is well written, although the denouement is rather hurried and abrupt. The ne'er-do-well, capable of better things and essentially fine in grain, has been drawn before by many; but Miss Mackellar has contrived to make the insouciant "Kid" quite a convincing and original figure. There is besides a feeling for the open spaces of the earth and a great appreciation of courage and endurance even when directed towards lawless ends, that lift this novel well out of the ordinary rut. (Mills and Boon; G. Robertson.)

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1913

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

Australian Bookcovers #268 - Snake by Kate Jennings

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Snake by Kate Jennings, 1996
Cover design: Jarrett Skinner
Minerva edition 1996

2011 Age Book of the Year Awards Shortlists

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The shortlisted works for the 2011 Age Book of the Year Awards have been released.

The category lists are:


Like Being a Wife by Catherine Harris (Vintage)
The Mary Smokes Boys by Patrick Holland (Transit Lounge)
Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregfor (Scribe)
Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith (Allen & Unwin)
Bereft by Chris Womersely (Scribe)


Sydney by Delia Falconer (New South)
A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W. K. Hancock by Jim Davidson (UNSW Press)
When It Rains by Maggie MacKellar (Vintage)
When Horse Became Saw by Anthony Macris (Viking)
The Many Worlds of R.H. Mathews: In Search of an Australian Anthropologist by Martin Thomas (Allen & Unwin)


Sly Mongose by Ken Bolton (Puncher &Wattmann)
Supermodernprayerbook by Susan Bradley Smith (Salt)
This Floating World by Libby Hart (5 Islands Press)
Porch Music by Cameron Lowe (Whitmore Press)
Starlight: 150 Poems by John Tranter (University of Queensland Press)

The awards will be presented on August 25 during the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Poem: Spring by Zora Cross

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Spring from grey winter's arms now leaps again,
   A rainbow child on either flower-like hand,
And, following, a careless sunny train
   Of poets scattering lays throughout the land.  

Look! like a green elf whistling wistfully
   Upon a reed-stem, Pan meanders there.
Orpheus and Pallas surely, too, I see  
   Out of the spring fling joy upon the air;

While, like a host of revellers' clashing din
   Of lyre and lute and harp and flute along,
Poet on poet, rhyme on rhyme begin --
   All lost in fragrance, honey, flower, and song.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 August 1925

Reprint: Too Many Books! by Nettie Palmer

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Some one wrote to me lately asking my opinion about the censorship of books, and gradually I found that the writer favoured censorship in the hope of making books fewer. The more books were condemned, for one reason or another, the fewer there would be to cumber the world! It seemed to me a suggestion worthy of Herod, sheer infanticide. My correspondent was fixed, though, in a belief that books were to-day increasing in numbers beyond all bearing, and that if writers would not cease writing, or publishers cease publishing, mounds of books would have to be condemned and suppressed on some pretext, so as to clear a space for those that remained.

But what does any one mean by too many books? There are more books produced than any one can read, of course, even if we never returned to reprints of old work as we do. We never pretend to read everything that appears. Our minds are affected, more or less, by the books other people are reading. Thoughts jostle in the air, but thought is never over-crowded nor too plentiful. The question then is not whether there are too many books for any one of us to read -- for of course there are; but whether there are too many books for all of us to read. Are we choked and overfed, with books wherever we turn? Are more books published now than fifty years ago, in proportion to the number of readers? I was strongly of opinion that books had not increased, and while I was wondering where I could get my statistics for the matter I found myself supplied with them -- not Australian statistics, indeed, but English.

More Readers -- Fewer Books.

Sir Ernest Benn, who knows as much as any one in England about the publication and marketing of books, wrote some months ago:  

"We are producing in this country to-day, roughly twice as many books as were published in 1880. I doubt whether there is any commodity and I am thinking of books as commercial commodities -- which could show so little advance in the vital fifty years since that date. And yet there is much more reason for an increase in the market of books than for an increase in the market of clothes. In 1880 we had a population which was almost illiterate, the Education Acts were quite new ... so that the book market of 1880 was limited to that small section of the population which had the advantage of a proper education."

This is written of England, but is equally true of Australia. How many elegant, standardised homes have failed to include even one bookshelf in their standards! This might not be seriously wrong, if the people in those homes were never restless, never mentally starved, never discontented with the few and ill-chosen books that some one has brought home from the library! But these homes are rarely the abode of self-complete sages or of Mr. Dooleys. Mr. Dooley did not feel the need of reading; he made thoughts himself. When he said that the Bible and Shakespeare came before all other books with him, and that he hadn't yet read them either, you felt he was, nevertheless, a full man. But most of us have appetite for books, whether we quite know it or not: and hunger makes restlessness. The most tranquil homes I know are indeed those in in which there is always a book -- not often a new book -- within reach.

Where Books are Scarce.

Books are a curious invention -- a bundle of papers indifferently connected and covered, exuding now a stimulant, now a soporific. While reading a book we are isolated, cut off from those about us. At the same time we are sharing in a form of delight common to an enormous number of our kind. We are joining the mental life of humanity. It is probably still true, even in 1929, that more people have read a book, of some kind, than have driven a motor car. People enjoy books, without doubt (I am not speak- ing here about the qualities and varieties of books.) What is done in ordinary life, to satisfy this appetite for books? Books merely double their output in fifty years, while hats and cotton increase a hundredfold.

Take a small, typical country township, and its book-supply. It must be mentioned that the township has a butcher, a baker, two general stores, and two bowsers. The books? In each of the two stores there is a shelf? A shelf, did I say? No, for that suggests length, a dimension. This "shelf" is a more pigeon-hole, capable of holding two piles of paper-covered books, perhaps fifteen in each pile. The books are the kind that once were issued at sixpence, but since the war have been a shilling. They look like rather compact magazines. Thirty "books" in stock. Well, if they are sold out fairly often, it might mean that the township, visitors included, consumed five hundred in a year. But no; wait a minute; these books are not sold, except by accident. They are a circulating library, the only one in the place, and there are no new books anywhere for sale. These paper-backs circulate till they drop. You pay a shilling for one; then you bring it back and when you borrow its successor you only pay threepence. If you forget to bring your book back, or leave the township with it in your luggage, the storekeeper has your shilling and your threepences and all the other books.

Can you imagine any other commodity being dispensed in such a manner so niggardly and slovenly, and with such contempt! Bathing suits in the same shops cost a guinea or more, and are not hired out, though they are more toughly built than these books. The bathing suits are better chosen, too, but that goes without saying, for the books are not chosen at all. "Too many books !" did some one say? In three years the majority of books in those two files show the same names, which I should rather not mention, just as I should rather not undertake to describe a bathing suit that was both shoddy and worn out.

At this point, some one raises a mild hand and says: "But what about the books in the School of Arts ?" Well, there is no School of Arts in this township yet, and I admit that when it does come it will have a library, supported by a Government grant. There will then be a certain number of books, bound with some firmness, and they will mostly come in quite new. They will not add to the number of books to be seen on the home shelves, nor will they take the place of a book department in the stores, but they will go far to satisfy, from week to week, the appetite for reading. After twenty years, though, which is not a long period in the life of a good library, what is the condition of most School of Arts libraries? So far as I know   them, they are filled with a mass of old novels, dusty and out-of-date, almost never read now, with the addition of a shelf of "the latest," while they remain new. That is, books are ordered for the School of Arts in this way: the bookseller is to send twenty pounds' worth of fiction, which, whatever other qualities it lacks, must be new. Nothing becomes old fashioned so quickly and hopelessly as a book, whose one quality was its newness; it "dated" from the first. I would suggest that some books are never old fashioned. "Don Quixote," Henry Lawson's stories, Lady Gregory's plays, Charlotte Bronte's novels, Lamb's essays, most of Shaw's plays. A public library that added a proportion of such books to its catalogue every year would have something to show, at the end of twenty years, that was not merely an accumulation of out-of-date rubbish, something that needed no apology.

But too many books! Most people are suffering from book malnutrition, for which the plain word is starvation.

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 19 January 1929

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

Great Australian Authors #42 - Nettie Palmer

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Nettie Palmer

Reprint: "Utopia is Here", says Nettie Palmer

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Nettie Palmer, the Australian authoress, has returned to Australia with "a sneaking feeling that when Sir Thomas More put Utopia in the South Seas he thought of us." This is her conclusion after having gone to look into the European question and having been in Spain when the revolution began.

Vance and Nettie Palmer's elder daughter, Aileen Yvonne, who is 21, was in Barcelona when the revolution broke out. Her parents, ten miles away, were unable to reach her for three days, when they secured a lift in an army lorry.

They found no frightened refugee, but a capable young woman intensely interested assisting athletes who had gone there for the Olympiad acting as interpreter, as she spoke English, French, Italian, and Spanish.

She is again in Spain interpreting.

Met the Famous

Vance Palmer called at Henry Handel Richardson's home, a quiet house called Green Ridges, in Sussex, where the authoress lives quietly with a secretary, working regularly, but deliberately, every day.

"She won't hurry to please publishers, and her work is lasting," Palmer commented. "She is a most intensely serious artist, direct and simple in manner, and obviously Australian.

"She has lived in England since seventeen, except for a return trip to Australia in 1912, to collect material for 'Richard Mahoney,' but she retains the Australian voice.

"I met Rebecca West, whom I know very well, but we don't agree on many matters; also Havelock Ellis, one of the two old angels which include Bernard Shaw.

"It is not generally known that he came to Australia when 17, graduated at the Sydney University, and taught in two little bush schools before returning to England."

Mrs. Palmer broadcasted at the B.B.C. on Australia and Spain, and has returned with much material. She intends to amplify and modernise her book on Australian literature.

First published in The Australian Women's Weekly, 17 October 1936

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


Snake Charmers in Texas: Essays 1980-87 by Clive James, 1988
Author's photograph by Tom Blau
Jonathan Cape edition 1988

2011 Kibble and Dobbie Awards

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reading by moonlight.jpg    The 2011 Kibble and Dobbie Awards have been announced with Brenda Walker the winner of the Kibble Literary Award for her memoir Reading by Moonlight. The winner of the 2011 Dobbie Award was Kristel Thornell for her novel Night Street.

The Kibble Award is for established writers and the Dobbie for first-time authors.

Currently Reading

the complaints.jpg

 The Complaints by Ian Rankin
Rankin's new crime series, following on from the very successful Rebus novels. As good as ever.



 The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
Fry's second autobiographical volume of memoirs. The name-dropping is relentless, but we forgive everything to allow Fry to tell his story.


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 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.



 Monster Blood Tattoo: Factotum by D. M. Cornish
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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.



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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.

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