August 2012 Archives

Life'll Kill Ya

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"The Guardian" has released its "Not-the-Booker" shortlist.  Again, no Australians.

Margo Lanagan gets around: one week she's in Bendigo and the next in Edinburgh for Book Festivals.  Best of luck to her.

Also there was Garth Nix who read an extract from his upcoming novel Clariel, which is a prequel to his Old Kingdom series.

The Wheeler Centre blog announced a little while back that Lisa Dempster is to be the new Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival, taking over after Steve Grimwade finishes up this year.

John Birmingham gets a good laugh out of The Australian newspaper's report that he was a leading contender to take over the reins of the Sydney Writers Festival. That would probably be a truly excellent event, though it might just spell the end of all future Sydney Festivals.  What the hell, go out with a bang I say!

And on the personal front, I'm speaking at the Nova Mob's meeting next Wednesday on the fantastical aspects of C.J. Dennis's writing.  I have no idea what I'm going to say but I suspect I'll be concentrating on The Glugs of Gosh.

Reprint: Queen of the Colonnies by Nettie Palmer

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Reading with great interest the description given in the "Courier" by "Nut Quad" of a voyage in 1861 from England to Australia, it did not take long before the name of the ship, "The Queen of the Colonies," roused quite another train of thought. To me, there will always be two n's in "Colonnies," because here, at Caloundra, the name is spelt so, carved on a tree. The tree is a shaky-looking old pandanus palm, exposed to the weather on the very edge of Moffatt's Headland. Those palms, though, seem to have the nine lives of a cat, holding on to the flimsiest of sandy soil long after their umbrella-like roots have been exposed to the air. The "Queen of the Colonnies" tree, then, embedded in grass and clay, may live there for centuries yet, if it is left untouched.

Nothing threatens its life, probably, so much as its extraordinary interest. People go to look at it, with its deeply carved inscription, and an impulse seems to make them want to knock the tree about; to carve something else on it, perhaps their own initials; or even to knock it down, though this has not been done yet. This tree's inscription goes back to the year before "Nut Quad's" description. In 1863 the "Queen of the Colonnies" was sailing in, when there was a death on hoard. For some reason it seemed better to have the burial on land so a boat put off for Moreton Island and the funeral took place there. When the boat set out on its return journey to the ship though it met with bad weather, so bad that it was driven right across to the mainland and wrecked near Caloundra Head. The boat's crew carved the name of their ship and the year 1863 on the tree. So far as as I can hear, they got away quite safely in the end, and the worst misfortune that happened to them has been that ever since every kind of false version of their adventure has been given. I may have some mistakes left in my version but at least I have given the barest bones of the story, and can hardly be far wrong. I have heard ten different accounts of it, I think. One, for instance printed last year in a Sydney paper with a photograph or the tree as it is at present, stated that the skipper's wife was buried at the foot of the tree, and that the boat was returning to the ship from Caloundra Head when it was wrecked. If this had been so, surely this inscription would have had some suggestion of an epitaph about it. At any rate, the other version does seem nearer the truth, and in any case it's a very exciting tree, standing there and staring over at South America.

Preservation of the Tree

What people now ask is, Who will guarantee the preservation of that tree? It stands on what is private property, I believe, but it is a place where everyone walks. It might be destroyed at   any time, as so many such accidental monuments are. What is the procedure for preserving them? They are best kept on their real position, though they would probably be safer in a museum. If they are to be left where they stand, with all the interest that is rent by their environment, I think they need to be put under some one's special care. It would be a loss to our already rather thin historical sense if such a link with the past were lost to Australia. Yet everything threatens it, from the universal small boy with his active tomahawk to the storms beating up from all sides on such a promontory.

Other Voyages

The account given by "Nut Quad" of life on such a sailing ship was very vivid, and makes our present-day voyages seem very artificially protected. I daresay there are a good many families in Australia which have kept a record of such a voyage. I can think of two: One is a voyage diary kept by a relative of mine, and presented in typescript to members of the family on the fiftieth anniversary of his arrival in Australia. Read such a journal, you are struck chiefly, I think, by the sense of adventure that sustains whole groups of travellers. Not even the bad food, and the fact that it was doled out in a ration which each group had to cook for themselves, could outweigh the romance of porpoises and flying fish and the New Australia. In the second volume of "The Fortunes of Richard Mahony" there is another account of such a voyage, not given in detail on the way, but with the conditions sketched while the boat as in port. One thing that we find hard to grasp now is that you took your cabin furniture with you, including a carpet, if you wished to be comfortable. If you brought a carpet home with you on your cabin floor nowadays, you'd merely be suspected of trying to evade the Customs.

The Spirit of Adventure.

In those days people carried to sea hearts that were both more adventurous and more anxious than ours are now. Not that we are always safe, but there is a sense of travelling to scheduled time, a fortnight behind one ship, a fortnight in front of another, and the waves seem to be ignored -- to say nothing of the winds, whose co-operation was done without long ago. If it is dangerous to go to sea now, that is because every way of living has its dangers. After the Titanic disaster, Joseph Conrad, the lover of solid old wooden sailing ships, wrote explaining that if people went to sea in a ship like a large-sized biscuit tin they might expect to be stove in by an iceberg! Most of us, though, are cheerfully willing to be hypnotised by the sense of safety on board a huge liner. It is only people of far inland countries, like Central Europeans, who have ever asked me nervously about the voyage from Australia, "and can you bear to be for five weeks in constant danger of death!" One can bear it. The "Queen of the Colonnies" bore it for something like five months. It is good to remember the courage and energy of those days. Will we seem as courageous, 70 years hence, when our descendants are flying overseas and wondering how we stood the boredom of a five-weeks' voyage?

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 10 December 1927

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

Clive James Interview

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nefertiti.jpg    You get the impression from this interview that Brian Appleyard originally wanted to talk about Clive James's new volume of poetry Nefertiti in the Flak Tower. But life tends to get in the way so a lot of the interview concentrates on the poet's health issues, work plans, and family complications. Whatever the original intention the final outcome is very interesting indeed.

"I had suicidal thoughts when I was young. I fancied myself as a melancholic, quite a lot of people do, it's a fashionable thing. Anyway, all these ideas were coming to me when I was going to sleep, ideas of self-destruction. They all promptly vanished the moment I was under real threat. There was a sudden urge to live. I wanted to do more, to write more."

It was, for a long time, not clear that he would make it. Close to death on several occasions, his intake of medication seems to have been vast and not always welcome: "They once gave me a mood stabiliser because I was getting a little ratty. I mean, the last thing you want as a writer is a mood stabiliser."


He has always written poetry. This, he says, is his best book -- "I have never before reached this pitch of intensity" -- but it is also his darkest. Well known for his television shows, his comical memoirs and his hilarious book reviews, he has, as a writer, always been much darker than his public persona would suggest. One review that he wrote about The Incredible Hulk was included as part of an English exam. A woman who sat the exam paper recently wrote to tell him she had to be escorted from the room because she was laughing so much.

2012 Ned Kelly Award Winners

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The winners of the 2012 Ned Kelly Awards - presented for Australian crime fiction and non-fiction - were announced at a ceremony in Melbourne this evening.

The winners were:

SD Harvey Short Story Award

"Summer of the Seventeenth Poll" by A.J. Clifford

Best First Crime Fiction

The Cartographer by Peter Twohig

Best True Crime

Sins of the Father by Eamonn Duff

Best Crime Fiction

Pig Boy by J.C. Burke

Lifetime Achievement Award

Gabrielle Lord

Combined Reviews: Pig Boy by J.C. Burke

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pig_boy.jpg    Pig Boy
J. C. Burke
Random House

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2012 Ned Kelly Award.]

From the publisher's page:
On Damon Styles's eighteenth birthday, he is expelled from school. But it's what happens afterwards that changes everything.

Now Damon must come up with a plan. It's the only way he can think straight. First, get his firearms licence. Then, see if the Pigman will give him a job - pig hunting will teach Damon what he needs to know. And he'd better get a lock for his wardrobe so his mother won't find what he's hiding.

Damon's taking matters into his own hands - but so is the town of Strathven.

A confronting, powerful story for young adults in the vein of J.C. Burke's CBCA award-winner The Story of Tom Brennan.


Holly Harper for "Readings": "I haven't been this impressed with a main character in quite some time. Damon isn't a nice, polite boy. He isn't the sort of kid you'd expect to find helping little old ladies with their shopping. But he's not just all rage either. He's a complicated character, and you can't help but feel for Damon. Despite the angry outbursts, despite the shell he wears, you can see why he'd feel the way he does...But it's not just Damon who shines in Pig Boy - all of the characters are fascinating, and work together to build a claustrophobic world that produces a young man like Damon, from his misguided mother to the school principal who's had enough, and especially the Miro the Pigman who takes the struggling Damon under his wing. JC Burke has created an absolutely unforgettable cast of characters in Pig Boy, and I have no doubt that this confronting book will appeal to everyone who has ever felt like the world is against them."

JudiJ on the "Slightly addicted to fiction" weblog: "There were moments reading Pig Boy that I could barely breathe, such was the tension. There were moments when I was put in mind of Robert Cormier, as the reading journey grew darker. There was never a moment when I wanted to put down this taut story about small town perceptions and prejudices...JC Burke is at her best writing challenging, thought-provoking novels for older readers. She won the CBCA Book of the Year in 2006 for The Story of Tom Brennan, which remains the best Australian YA novel about the consequences of careless teen driving."

Kasia Hubbard on the "GoodReads" website: "Starting this novel, for me, was very hard to do. Don't get me wrong, I like dark and twisted thinking, but this book started out even darker and more twisted than my personal taste allows. Even though it was a rough start, I will tell you that it's not what you would expect...I do recommend this book, but with a strong warning that it is not for younger teens. Amazing turn of events and even more amazing is the way the novel turns from dark and destitute to one of unexpected kindness."


Andrew Stevenson in "The Sydney Morning Herald".
John Purcell on the "Booktopia Blog".


The author talks about the book on YouTube:

Reprint: Australian Essays

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The occasional essay is a medium which is not much cultivated in Australia, probably because of lack of opportunity. Still, we can quote some good examples. For example, the gift has been exhibited by the late Sir Archibald Strong, Professor Murdoch, Mr. F. C. Phillips, and others of whom by no means the least is Mr. S. Elliott Napier. Mr. Napier is the author of several pleasant books of which we cherish grateful memories. But many will think that in this one he is at his best. The art of the occasional essay consists in taking any peg upon which to hang a light disquisition; sometimes merely humorous, sometimes with series implications. Here we have "the hansom cab" of literature so employed.

There is a range of reading and a happy allusiveness which reconcile one to Mr. Elliott Napier, even in apparent inconsistencies. Brains, he says, will always conquer brawn in the long run. School sport is in danger of being overdone. Travel, rather than school or sport, is the most educative influence. But he allows that it is not for all to travel, and that cricket, in which he would no doubt include other forms of sport, has played a great part in establishing and maintaining the ties of Empire. "For in this respect every 'test' team is a more efficient band of ambassadors than any that the chancelleries have known." Collecting antique allusions to the game of cricket, Mr. Elliott Napier has discovered that in its infancy a serf was pressed into the office of wicket-keeper, "a position which one would have thought to be eminently suitable for a knight, considering the advantages of his customary defensive armour plate." That is true, but in those days there were no appeals.

In his essay, "The Loveliest Lyric in the Language," Mr. Elliott Napier enters difficult country, and traverses it with signal success. In the conventional view, even of the British themselves, the British are a heavy, cloddish people, insusceptible to the spiritual claims of beauty. Yet even in the very materialistic ages the ability to turn a graceful lyric was part of the normal equipment of anyone who aspired to be someone. It was the better equivalent of the modern after-dinner orations. Jacobean profligates composed dainty and delicious verse. But these were agreeable play-things. Mr. Elliott Napier, rightly in our opinion, puts his money on Keats. He places his favourites in the following order:

(1) "Ode to a Nightingale."

(2) "Grecian Urn."

(3) "Melancholy."

(4) "Autumn."

Had we been the judges, we should have bracketed (1) and (2) as a dead heat, and placed "Autumn" third. But it is difficult to decide.

Quite one of the best things in the book is a parody on Macaulay's criticism of the poems of Robert Montgomery. In this case, Shakespeare is the target, and the travesty is admirably sustained. Shakespeare, an uncouth yokel, coming from nowhere, presumes to write plays for the stage. They are stuffed with colloquialisms, ungrammaticisms, solecisms, plagiarisms, anachronisms, verbosities, and neologisms. One queen might have said, "I am not amused." Another, her ancestor, might have said, "I was." These essays renew our hopes for the Australian essay. (Angus and Robertson; price 6/.)

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 October 1932

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

2012 Inky Awards Shortlists

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The shortlists for the 2012 Inky Awards have been announced.  These are international awards for teen literature.  The Gold Inky is for Australian authors, and the Silver Inky for International writers.

The shortlists are:

Gold Inky

Shift by Em Bailey
Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar
Act of Faith by Kelly Gardiner
Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall
The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams

Silver Inky

BZRK by Michael Grant
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (illustrated by Jim Kay)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Winners are determined by an online vote of readers of the InsideADog weblog and will be announced at the State Library of Victoria on 23 October 2012.

Australian Bookcovers #319 - The Turning by Tim Winton

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The Turning by Tim Winton, 2004
Pan Macmillan edition 2004

Combined Reviews: The Life by Malcolm Knox

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the_life.jpg    The Life
Malcolm Knox
Allen & Unwin

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2012 Ned Kelly Award.]

From the publisher's page:
He looked into the Pacific and the Pacific looked back into him.

The Life tells the story of former-world-champion Australian surfer, Dennis Keith, from inside the very heart of the fame and madness that is 'The Life'.

Now bloated and paranoid, former Australian surfing legend Dennis Keith is holed up in his mother's retirement village, shuffling to the shop for a Pine-Lime Splice every day, barely existing behind his aviator sunnies and crazy OCD rules, and trying not to think about the waves he'd made his own and the breaks he once ruled like a god. Years before he'd been robbed of the world title that had his name on it - and then drugs, his brother, and the disappearance and murder of his girlfriend and had done the rest. Out of the blue, a young would-be biographer comes knocking and stirs up memories Dennis thought he'd buried. It takes Dennis a while to realise that she's not there to write his story at all.

Daring, ambitious, dazzling, The Life is also as real as it gets - a searing, beautiful novel about fame and ambition and the price that must sometimes be paid for reaching too high.


Stephen Romei for the "A Pair of Ragged Claws" weblog: " The Life is about something in which I have little interest - surfing - and yet I ripped through it in a couple of days, fast for me. That's the beauty of a good story isn't it? It can take to places you didn't think you wanted to go and pull you along with the power of its telling, and by the author's skillful exploitation of your need to know the answer to the old question: what happens next? And then?...The Life is an ambitious novel, in the sense that Knox makes the reader do some work. He switches between first person and third person narratives and this takes a little getting used to, but once you have it captures the terrible gulf between the great DK, king of the waves, and the fat slob (but not an uneducated man) hiding in his room at his old mum's. There's also a lot of repetition as DK goes through various routines, mental and physical, which is initially a little exasperating but the cumulative effect is a quietly powerful portrait of an OCD sufferer."

John Purcell on the "Booktopia Blog": "The Life, Knox's fourth novel, is a book like a wave. Telling the story of once world-champion surfer Dennis Keith, it gains momentum in the shallows of Coolangatta, crests at Hawaii during the first world title of the sport, then crashes down, leaving DK, as he is known, beached at a retirement village in his fifties, 18 stone and no longer able to stand up on a board, subsisting on a combination of pills, pine-lime Splices and hand-washing rituals. My eleven year old son took up surfing about a year ago. Or rather, it took him up... he has swiftly become entranced, obsessed, addicted to the sea, to the swell, to his board. At its core, The Life is about this addiction, about the ocean 'lit up with huge smashing sucking six-footers', about shutting your eyes and seeing 'easterly lines... (the) staircase outside the room was a six foot drop... grass bank in the lunch area was a fat shoulder ripe for a roundhouse cutback'; about how surfing reinvents you, 'like every wave was a new swipe with a big wet cloth on the blackboard.'"

Stu Nettle on the "Swellnet" weblog: "Admirably, Knox makes no concession to the non-surfer - the language is crude and entirely peculiar to surfers. The Life is written by someone who's sat behind the rocks at Snapper, understands the sand flow at Rainbow Bay, and has spent a lot of time around surfers. In stark contrast to Breath by Tim Winton, which contained florid descriptions of 'men dancing upon waves', The Life is written in the language of the line-up: 'I done this', 'yous done that'."

Geordie Williamson in "The Australian": "They mean the sport is beautiful to watch, but the analogy is more correct than they know...Waves are as regular and inexorable as a poetic line, and can vary as widely in form and intensity. Surfers are as much subject to their chosen wave as a poet is to a particular verse form. They may stamp physical rather than metrical feet in making their progress, yet they still inscribe hieroglyphs in the onrushing line, mundane or exquisite according to their skill and imagination...The point is worth labouring because Malcolm Knox's new novel is not entirely what it seems. Yes, it is an ardent evocation of Australian surf culture, from the 1950s to the present: an encyclopedic act of social and historical recall projected, like an old home-movie, on to the life of a Queensland surfer of singular talent...But in The Life, Knox has taken a milieu barricaded by private language and codes designed to repel outsiders and wannabes, and in which the insiders' Zen-like reverence for surfaces and the unarticulated act mock writerly eloquence, and made it the backdrop to a universal portrait of artistic obsession."


Fiona Capp for "Readings".
Stu Nettle on the "Swellnet" blog.
Nick Carroll for the "Financial Review".


Malcolm Knox discusses the issue of "Manhood" with Deborah Robertson at the 2012 Adelaide Writers' Week.

Toni Jordan Interview

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nine_days.jpg    Toni Jordan came to our attention back in 2008 with her first novel Addition, which was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. She is now back with her third novel, Nine Days and she recently spoke to Linda Morris for "The Age":

At a guess, the photograph [see cover at top] was taken some time in 1940, probably at Melbourne's Spencer Street Station. War had been declared in Europe and Menzies was backing Britain, boots and all. Neither the limbless veterans of Pozieres nor Europe's grim battlefield graveyards could check the enthusiasm of Australia's sons busting to fight for the Empire...

...Text publisher Michael Heyward had come across the still many years before while flicking through the archives of Melbourne's State Library and passed it to Jordan as she was casting about for an idea for her next novel.

''I noticed how gorgeous it was,'' Jordan says. ''It is a really heartbreaking moment but I didn't know if it could translate into something, and I really didn't think it would.''

She stuck the picture over her desk and for almost a year thought she'd never find a story to match its intimacy and grandeur.

Then, one day in July last year, the story came tumbling out. ''I just thought and I just typed.''

Poem: A Poet's £oves by Albert Owen

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Base in the world's eyes is the wretch
   Who when he kisses tells;
But poets must have bread and meat:
Verse packed with sighs and kisses sweet
   Is still the sort that sells;
So, shamelessly, I write of how
I kissed Miranda on the brow.

I've sung my love for Lalage
   And earned a fortnight's rent:
Bold Bertha, with the wicked eye,
Helped me some furniture buy.
   An ev'ning that I spent
With Mabel, when reduced to verse,
Put fifteen shillings in my purse.

Of how I cuddled Dorothy,
   And flirted with Chlorine,
And dallied for a while with Ruth,
I've written; but the painful truth
   Makes me look still more mean.
The plain, unvarnished fact is this --
Although I tell, I do not kiss!

First published in The Bulletin, 18 April 1918

2012 Age Book of the Year Awards

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The winners of the Age Books of the Year Awards for 2012 were announced at the Melbourne Writers Festival last night.

The winners were:

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears

1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia by James Boyce

The Brokenness Sonnets I-III and Other Poems by Mal McKimmie

In addition, 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia by James Boyce was announced as Book of the Year.

You can read the shortlists here.

Amusing Literary Terms #4 - Space Opera

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"Space Opera", science fiction's equivalent of television soap opera, is a sub-genre of sf that deals with, well, "big stuff in space": think Star Wars and Star Trek.  The plots are generally melodramatic in nature and feature conflicts between opponents possessing technologically advanced weaponry. 

In the middle parts of the twentieth century the term was used to denigrate specific forms of sf, but this has changed over the past twenty years or so with the publication of such fiction as Iain Banks's Culture series and the broadcast of the politically themed recent television version of Battlestar Galatica.

Combined Reviews: The Cook by Wayne Macauley

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the_cook.jpg    The Cook
Wayne Macauley
Text Publishing

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, and the 2011 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards.]

From the publisher's page:
Power through service, says Head Chef. It's one of the first lessons taught at Cook School, where troubled youths learn to be master chefs by bowing to decadence and whim, by offering up a part of themselves on every plate.

It's a motto Zac takes to heart. A teenage boy with a difficult past, he throws himself into the world and work of haute cuisine. He has dreams of a future, of escaping the dead-end, no-hope lot of his fellow cooks. He wants to be the greatest chef the world has seen. He thinks he's taken his first steps when he becomes House Cook for a wealthy family. Never mind that the family may seem less than appreciative. Or refined. Or deserving. Power through service.

But as the facade crumbles and his promised future looks unlikely to eventuate, Zac the Cook is forced to reassess everything. Sweet turns sour and ends in bitter revenge.

Blackly funny and deliciously satirical, The Cook feeds our hunger to know what goes on in the kitchen, while skewering our culture of food worship.


Owen Richardson in "The Sydney Morning Herald": "In the past few years, Wayne Macauley has published some of the most memorable fiction going in this country. His books and stories are satirical fables in which the properties are recognisably contemporary and Australian - Melburnian, indeed - but his use of them is carefully distanced from realism and he has a prose style of remarkable poise and control that can allow his narratives to take off into the bizarre without ever losing their cool. Beneath that cool is a steady anger at the depredations of late capitalism, at the attempts of laissez-faire to turn us all into Homo economicus or addicted consumers...After two short novels or novellas - Blueprints for a Barbed-Wire Canoe and Caravan Story - and a book of short fiction, Other Stories, this is Macauley's longest novel so far and marks a brilliant development in his dark vision of the way we live...Although the publicity tells us this is a book that will appeal to foodies, ''appeal'' may not quite be the right word: The Cook isn't really about food at all or, rather, it is about food as an index of money and class, ambition and conspicuous consumption."

Louise Swinn in "The Age": "Anyone who has seen even so much as an ad for MasterChef will be familiar with the concept of Cook School, an hour and a half from Melbourne, for which Zac is one of the 16 wayward teenagers chosen. With little in life to fall back on, Zac is smart enough to recognise this opportunity. He is a natural but he works hard, taking to heart the advice to keep suppliers close, rearing his own stock and putting in long hours perfecting each dish...Zac is brought to life so clearly and so rapidly that it is easy to forget he was ever anything but a master chef in the making and this is one of The Cook's many achievements. Perhaps what makes Zac so attractive is his sheer dedication. He is not the kid who wants to be a movie star without going to acting school; he is prepared to work hard at it. He learns about provenance - nothing appears at the table without its particular history - and he seems to comprehend the lesson that knowing and understanding, and being the master of, that history is the key to culinary success."

Fiona Mackrell on the "artsHub" website: "Macauley has opted for a challenging, seemingly naïve and untrustworthy first person voice that doesn't always work and isn't always consistent. Despite that, we can see both through Zac's eyes and interpret characters and events through our own, which provides the most powerful aspect of the writing and is crucial to driving the novel's tension...This is bleak and uncomfortable reading that ironically would have been far better if it hadn't shied away from being even more so. There's a whiff of Camus's The Stranger to The Cook but it doesn't have the same nihilist backbone or power. Though there are images that will play in the imagination for a long time after you put it down, it's ultimately less than satisfying."

James Ley in "The Australian": "Melbourne-based Macauley has been honing his comic skills as a novelist and short-story writer for the better part of two decades, and The Cook is often very funny indeed. An early scene in which the apprentices receive a lesson in whacking a subordinate on the head with a soup ladle almost veers into Three Stooges territory...But there is a real savagery underlying the novel's vision of a society whose idea of ambition has decayed into a crude desire for social status and material advancement. It suggests that there is something morally and psychologically corrupting about a system in which it seems the only way to escape being exploited is to become an exploiter."

Trish Bolton in "Overland": "Written by the much-lauded Australian writer Wayne Macauley, The Cook's themes of capitalism-gone-mad, excessive consumption, untrammelled growth and rampant exploitation of humans, animals and natural resources is timely...Macauley explores a number of issues recently highlighted by the Occupy Movement, animal welfare groups and the GFC through his main protagonist Zac, one of a number of young offenders sent to Cook School to learn a trade and become decent, upstanding and productive citizens...The story, told from Zac's point of view, pays no heed to commas or quotation marks so that sentences tumble and flow. It is an inspired choice that takes us along for a hypnotising ride and immerses us fully in Zac's macabre world, which, we learn along the way, is our world too. "


Ben Pobjie for "Readings".

Victoria Cosford for "Echo".


The author has a webpage dedicated to the book, and the various reactions to it.

Chloe Hooper Interview

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the_engagement.jpg    Chloe Hooper's first novel was A Child's Book of True Crime back in 2002. That was followed by the very successful non-fiction work,The Tall Man. Now she has returned to fiction with The Engagement. The author recently spoke to Jane Sullivan for "The Age":

"I had a dark night of the soul after this book went to the printer,'' Chloe Hooper confesses. ''I thought, 'Don't tell me I've just done a literary Fifty Shades of Grey'.''

Let's be clear about this. Hooper's second novel, The Engagement, is not a sadomasochistic romp designed to titillate millions of women readers. It's a sophisticated, multilayered work that combines the headlong appeal of a thriller with a nuanced mystery about our darker sexual and romantic desires.

What it does do, however, is pose much the same questions as everyone is asking about the extraordinary Shades of Grey phenomenon. What is it that women fantasise about, and why? Do they want to be their dream man's bride, or sex slave?

Hooper, aged 39, a tall, slim woman with clear pale eyes, is best known in Australia for her acclaimed 2008 non-fiction book The Tall Man, but started out as a novelist (her first novel, A Child's Book of True Crime, came out in 2002 and was shortlisted for the British Orange Prize for women's fiction). She did her homework after she finished The Engagement and read Fifty Shades of Grey, which she found very formulaic.

2012 Queensland Literary Awards Shortlists

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As was mentioned here and in the newspapers a few months back, the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards were scrapped by the incoming state government.  In their place a new set of awards, called the Queensland Literary Awards, were set up by a group of interested literary parties.  The shortlists for those awards have now been released.

 Unpublished Indigenous Writer - David Unaipon Award

Siv Parker for Story
Ellen van Neerven-Currie for Hard
Dorothy Williams-Kemp for My Journey that May Never End

Emerging QLD Author - Manuscript Award

Aaron Smibert for Scratches on the Surface
Luke Thomas for Home Mechanics
Catherine Titasey for Island of the Unexpected
Ariella van Luyn for Hidden Objects

Literary or Media Work Advancing Public Debate - Harry Williams Award

Paul Cleary for Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia's Future
George Megalogenis for The Australian Moment: How We Were Made for These Times
Michael Wesley for There Goes the Neighbourhood

Science Book Award

Robyn Arianrhod for Seduced by Logic
Frank Bowden for Gone Viral
Rob Brooks for Sex, Genes and Rock 'n' Roll
Dr Richard Smith for Australia: The Time Traveller's Guide

History Book Award

Robyn Arianrhod for Seduced by Logic
James Boyce for 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia
Bill Gammage for Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia
Nicole Moore for The Censor's Library


Peter Carey for The Chemistry of Tears
Anna Funder for All That  I Am
Kate Grenville for Sarah Thornhill
Alex Miller for Autumn Laing
Frank Moorhouse for Cold Light


Robin de Crespigny for The People Smuggler
Jane Gleeson-White for Double Entry
Patrick Holland for Riding the Trains in Japan
William McInnes & Sarah Watt for Worse Things Happen at Sea
Alice Pung for Her Father's Daughter

Australian Short Story collection - Steele Rudd Award

Rodney Hall for Silence
Marion  Halligan for Shooting the Fox
John Kinsella for In the Shade of the Shady Tree
Ryan O'Neill for The Weight of a Human Heart
Janette Turner Hospital for Forecast Turbulence

Judith Wright Calanthe Poetry Award

Anthony Lawrence for The Welfare of my Enemy
David McCooey for Outside
Rhyll McMaster for Late Night Shopping
Peter Rose for Crimson Crop
Simon West for The Yellow Gum's Conversion

Children's Book Award

Pamela Rushby for The Horses Didn't Come Home
John Flanagan for Brotherband: The Outcasts
Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood for Look, a Book!
Elizabeth Honey for Ten Blue Wrens
Briony Stewart for Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers

Young Adult Book Award

Kirsty Eagar for Night Beach
Neil Grant for The Ink Bridge
Judith Clarke for Three Summers
Margo Lanagan for Sea Hearts
Vikki  Wakefield for All I ever wanted

Drama Script (Stage)

Angela Betzien for War Crimes
Wayne Blair for  Bloodland
Patricia Cornelius for Taxi
Rita Kalnejais for Babyteeth
Lally Katz for A Golem Story

Television Script

Blake Ayshford for The Straits  (episode 3 )
Brendan Cowell for The Slap (episode 3)
Liz Doran for Dance Academy (season 2, ep 24)
Anthony Mullins for Strange Calls (episode 3)
Sue Smith for Mabo

Film Script

Louise Fox for Dead Europe
Miro Bilbrough for Being Venice
Shayne Armstrong & Shane Krause for Rarer Monsters
Brendan Cowell for Save Your Legs

The winners will be announced on September 4.

Australian Bookcovers #318 - Minimum of Two by Tim Winton

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Minimum of Two by Tim Winton, 1987
Cover illustration by David Nelson
Penguin edition 1996

2012 Children's Book of the Year Award Winners

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The winners of the 2012 Children's Book of the Year Awards have been announced.

Older Readers Book of the Year 2012
WINNER     Gardner, Scot: The Dead I Know (Penguin Group Australia)
HONOUR     Condon, Bill: A Straight Line to my Heart (Allen & Unwin)
HONOUR     Newton, Robert: When We were Two (Penguin Books, Penguin Group (Australia))

Younger Readers Book of the Year 2012
WINNER     Constable, Kate: Crow Country (Allen & Unwin)
HONOUR     French, Jackie: Nanberry: Black Brother White (Angus & Robertson Harper Collins Publishers)
HONOUR     Green, Susan: The Truth about Verity Sparks (Walker Books)

Early Childhood Book of the Year 2012

WINNER     Bland, Nick Ill. Freya Blackwood: The Runaway Hug (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)
HONOUR     Hartnett, Sonya Ill. Lucia Masciullo: Come Down, Cat! (Puffin Books, Penguin Group (Australia))
HONOUR     Honey, Elizabeth: That's Not a Daffodil! (Allen & Unwin)

Picture Book of the Year 2012

WINNER     Graham, Bob: A Bus called Heaven (Walker Books)
HONOUR     Brooks, Ron Text. Margaret Wild: The Dream of the Thylacine (Allen & Unwin)
HONOUR     Whatley, Bruce Text. Jackie French: Flood (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia)

Eve Pownall Book of the Year 2012

WINNER     Lester, Alison & Tulloch, Coral: One Small island: The Story of Macquarie Island (Penguin Group (Australia))
HONOUR     Do, Anh & Do, Suzanne Ill. Bruce Whatley: The Little Refugee (Allen & Unwin)
You can read the full shortlists here.

Jacinta Halloran Interview

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pilgrimage.jpg    Jacinta Halloran was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript by an Emerging Victorian Writer in 2007. That manuscript was subsequently published by Scribe under the title Dissection. Halloran has now published her second novel, Pilgrimage, and she recently spoke to Jane Sullivan for The Sydney Morning Herald:

We're talking at a cafe near Halloran's home in Elwood, where she lives with her husband and three children. She's a slight, slim figure dressed in shades of brown, with expressive hands, and is all too aware that in her novels and short stories she tends to write about female doctors facing a personal crisis.

But she says that's not autobiographical. ''I'm interested in writing about a character who has tried to live her life and, for whatever reasons, circumstances have conspired and she ends up in a situation where things haven't turned out the way she might have hoped.

''How does she move on to make sense of her life? I'm interested in struggle and how that might or might not be resolved.'' She laughs. ''I'm not really interested in happy things.''

Pilgrimage came about after Halloran took a two-week trip to Romania to see ottoman carpets at the Black Church in Brasov. She had a vague idea she would like to set a novel overseas and Romania sounded inspiring: ''Transylvania! The Black Church!''

What she found was a sombre country still recovering from the repressions of the Ceausescu regime, a great sense of hospitality and pride in local customs, and the glimmerings of a story.

Poem: Products by Edward Dyson

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"What are Australia's literary products?" - Foster Frazer.

Our literary products? Fie:
What ignorance does this imply!
   Pray, will you tell us whose berries
   Are bigger than our gooseberries?
Who grows the maize so thick and high?

And where in all the world around
Can such enormous spuds be found?
   And answer if Atlantic has
   Sea-serpents as gigantic as
The ones that hereabout abound?

Our melons that a half-ton weigh,
Our wondrous pig that fills a dray,
   Our locusts -- the infernalists --
   The bright, tri-weekly journalist
Produces these things day by day.
Our literary products they!

First published in The Bulletin, 25 August 1910

Belinda Castles Interview

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hannah_emil.gif    Belinda Castles won the Australian/Vogel Award back in 2006 for The River Baptists and, while it has been some time between drinks, she has returned in 2012 with her second novel Hannah & Emil. She recently spoke to Jessica Au for "Readings":

Tell us about writingHannah & Emil - where did the idea start for you?

Hannah and Emil is based on the lives of my grandparents. As a child I knew bits and pieces about their lives but there were two secrets that emerged when my German grandfather died. One was that my grandmother was Jewish, and so then were her sons, and that my grandfather had had a German family before meeting my grandmother. His German son died fighting for the Hitler Youth Army. This was made doubly poignant because my grandfather's father was murdered by the Nazis.

These facts stayed with me and later in life, when I received a batch of letters my grandmother had written to Melbourne from Kent after WWII to friends there, I felt that I had her voice. As soon as I expressed interest in writing this book, there was a deluge of papers, photographs, anecdote - a real treasure trove. It became something I had to do, a responsibility to my family and to myself.

Amusing Literary Terms #3 - Tuckerization

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Tuckerization is the act of using a person's name in an original story as an in-joke. The term is derived from Wilson Tucker, a pioneering American science fiction writer, fan and fanzine editor, who made a practice of using his friends' names for minor characters in his stories.

In most cases, tuckerization is used for "bit parts" (minor characters), an opportunity for the author to create an homage to a friend or respected colleague. But sometimes an author will attach a friend's name, description, or identifiable characteristics to a major character, and in some novels nearly all the characters represent friends, colleagues, or prominent persons the author knows.

- from Wikipedia

Paul D. Carter Interview

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eleven_seasons.jpg    Paul D. Carter's novel, Eleven Seasons, won the 2012 Australian/Vogel Award earlier this year. The author recently spoke to Angela Meyer for the Melbourne Writers Festival blog:

I like how the novel interrogates different cultures around the game--good and bad--through Jason's encounters. Was it important to you to shine a light on both the positive and negative aspects?

My greatest aim with this novel was to write a book that dealt with football but which non-followers of the game could appreciate. I wanted to get the reader to think of football as a sphere in his life that was interdependent with the other spheres in his life: his relationship with his mother, his relationships with his friends, his relationships with girls. Football is something he uses for a sense of selfhood and direction, in the same way that other people might embrace music or dance to provide themselves with these things.

This said, I felt it was important to look at the way the way football culture might inhibit him as much as it provides him with solace. I think it can be easy to escape the hard work of growing up and figuring yourself out if you are part of a club or institution that does this figuring out for you. I think this issue extends to cultural pursuits outside of football as well, but in football it is quite explicit.

Combined Reviews: Chelsea Mansions by Barry Maitland

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chelsea_mansions.jpg    Chelsea Mansions
Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2012 Ned Kelly Award.]

From the publisher's page:
When Nancy Haynes, an elderly American tourist, is brutally murdered in a seemingly senseless attack after visiting the Chelsea Flower Show, DI Kathy Kolla suspects there is more to the case than first appears. When another occupant of the palatial Chelsea Mansions is murdered hot on the heels of the first - but this time a Russian oligarch - everybody wants to get involved.

Is it a Litvinenko-style KGB assassination? The spooks muscling in certainly think so. Are the murders linked? Or is Nancy's death just the result of mistaken identity? Kathy is determined to dig deeper, but comes up against walls of silence. If she persists, does she risk her career - and possibly more? DCI Brock, meanwhile, faces the fight of his life as his past comes back to haunt him.

A crime long buried, a deadly African virus, and some of the most resourceful criminals Brock and Kolla have ever faced, conspire to make this Maitland's best mystery yet.


Christine Cremen in "The Sydney Morning Herald": "Back in the golden age of crime fiction, it was all location, location, location. From the 1920s to the 1950s, mysteries were published with floor plans of houses and even maps of whole villages to help readers work out who the murderer might be. Since the 1960s, writers haven't been quite as focused on where a crime takes place but when they are, their books can stand out from the rest. This is the case with former professor of architecture Barry Maitland's Brock and Kolla mysteries, an award-winning series of British police procedurals set in various well-realised locations. In these books, Maitland (who lives in Australia but has set all but one of his novels overseas) manages to accomplish what many other authors who make a feature of place can only aspire to - his setting becomes one of the characters."

"AustCrimeFiction" weblog: "One of the quirks of Maitland's books is the settings that he uses for the main component of the action in his books. In this case, this small square, with it's row of houses - part of which is the hotel, the rest of which has been progressively turned into a massive townhouse by our Russian victim Mikhail Moszynski. Not just a setting, this area because an intricate part of the plot itself as is often the way. As is also often the way Kolla's investigation is characterised by her dogged determination. Brock's part in the investigation is more thoughtful, cerebral, intuitive. Along the way there's some nice touches of the personal, and there's a bit of professional skullduggery just to make everyone's lives more complicated than they need to be."

"Fair Dinkum Crime" weblog: "There are a number of connecting threads between CHELSEA MANSIONS and SPIDER TRAP, but that shouldn't prevent you from reading this if it is your first book by Barry Maitland. I think this one will send you looking for earlier titles. And there are plenty of openings for a sequel to this one."

Roger Hainsworth in "The Adelaide Review": "If you read Chelsea Mansions you had better pay attention. It has more characters than Little Dorrit and if you lack total recall you might find it difficult to keep track of the dead, never mind the living. This is not a criticism. It is Barry Maitland at his best and that is very good indeed."

Caroline Curtis on the "Australian Women Online" weblog: "The beautiful construction of Chelsea Mansions might well owe something to Barry Maitland's architectural background. The story rises, like an interesting-looking building, with attractive, simple lines that reveal immensely intricate and complicated details only on closer examination. It immerses and entices the reader to follow every twist and turn...The foundations of the novel lie firmly in the reliable characters of D.I. Kathy Kolla and her boss D.C.I. Brock. Kathy Kolla is likeable - admirably holding her own in a male-dominated and chauvinistic environment; she is hard-working, dedicated and loyal. D.C.I. Brock exists to catch criminals. He is a creature of rare intelligence, his brilliant investigative mind able to pinpoint the right questions to ask. Neither accept appearances at face value. Both have courage and integrity in their pursuit of the truth, where others might have settled for easier, politically-correct compromises."


John Purcell asks the author "Ten Terrifying Questions" on the "Booktopia Blog".


The author writes about how the novel came about on the "Readings" blog.

Quote: The Role of Fiction

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So I love hearing from people who have no time for fiction. Who read only biographies and popular science. I love hearing about the death of the novel. I love getting lectures about the triviality of fiction, the triviality of making things up. As if that wasn't what all of us do, all day long, all life long. Fiction gives us everything. It gives us our memories, our understanding, our insight, our lives. We use it to invent ourselves and others. We use it to feel change and sadness and hope and love and to tell each other about ourselves. And we all, it turns out, know how to do it.

- from "Everything is Fiction" by Keith Ridgway

Australian Bookcovers #317 - Scission by Tim Winton

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Scission by Tim Winton, 1985
Cover illustration by Cathy Larsen and Doug Pitt
McPhee Gribble edition 1993

Geoffrey McGeachin Interview

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blackwattle_creek.jpg    Geoffrey McGeachin won a Ned Kelly Award for his 2010 novel, The Diggers Rest Hotel, the first Charlie Berlin novel. Now he's back with a follow-up, Blackwattle Creek, and he was interviewed for the Penguin website on its release.

What is your new book about?

Blackwattle Creek catches up with Charlie Berlin in 1957, ten years on from his introduction in The Diggers Rest Hotel. Berlin is still a Melbourne copper, still dealing with the traumas of his wartime service but he is now married with kids and a house in the suburbs. He seems to be holding it all together but an apparently simple request from his wife to have a chat with a just-widowed friend leads to his life spiralling out of control as he's embroiled in events that take him down a very dark path.

What or who inspired it?

I wanted to pick up Charlie ten years later and see how he was coping and also to see how Australian society was changing over that period. This took me to 1957 post-Olympics Melbourne and I had an idea about an object being inadvertently placed into a coffin and having to be retrieved. That actually came about from my father's favourite cap being put into his coffin rather than placed on top with his wartime medals. Though his cap was never retrieved the incident gave me an idea for a story where a soldier's medals are accidentally placed inside the coffin and when his widow asks for them back she sees something disturbing. Coming across something called Project Sunshine, while doing research, let me tie in British atomic testing in Australia, radioactive fallout and Cold War paranoia, and then I was off and running.

What was the biggest challenge, writing it?

My biggest challenge was probably making time since I have a parallel career as a photography teacher. I love historical research and creating characters and letting my imagination wander so I need a fair bit of mulling time - a few extra hours in the day or days in the week would be useful.

Poem: The Settled Bards by Kodak (Ernest O'Ferrall)

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These be the grim suburban days,
   And, tho' in verse we frolic,
All soberly we go our ways
Writing our sweet commercial lays
And any sort of stuff that pays
   (Our Johnnie's got the colic).

When Omar was our guiding star
   We drank and quoted gaily,
But Middle Age said "Here you are!"
And now we live in suburbs far,
And watch the fleeting railway car,
   And rush to catch it daily.

We're settled down and going bald,
   And when we sit at table
The wife recites the Ones Who've Called
(Some years ago it would have palled,
But -- Pegasus is snugly stalled
   And champing in his stable).

We've done with dreams -- we've done with drinks
   (Could anything be stranger!)
And when we ask Peg. thro' the chinks
Of his abode just what he thinks,
The old steed whisks his tail, and winks
   Into his well-filled manger.

First published in The Bulletin, 8 August 1907

The Indifference of Heaven

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With the 2012 London Olympics in full swing Peter Rozovsky, of the "Detectives Beyond Borders" weblog, asks for Olympics-related crime fiction suggestions.  He links back to an earlier post regarding Shame Maloney's Nice Try, set during Melbourne's failed bid for the 1996 Olympics.

Justine Larbalestier stands up for the subject-matter portrayed in modern Young Adult novels stating that "Teenagers are as varied as adults", which is perfectly true.  And to those who complain about the books her advice is simple: "I am sorry that we YA writers are not portraying the kind of world you think is suitable for your teenagers. But I have a solution. Why not write your own books?"

A week or so back I posted about the 2012 Man Booker Prize longlist noting that the nationality spread was a little thin.  As it does each year "The Guardian" newspaper in the UK runs a discussion to find a "Not the Booker Prize" winner from reader nominations.  This year's longlist includes The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey, The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan, The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman and Bereft by Chris Womersley.

With all the State Premiers' Literary Awards releasing their shortlists lately the standout exception is Queensland, which, as you'll probably recall, ditched their literary awards this year.  But have no fear a new Queensland-based prize has risen from the ashes.

National Public Radio in the US ran a survey to decide on the 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels, and the results are now in.  Included on the list are: The Book Thief by Markus Zusack (10), Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld (28), Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix (40), I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusack (82), and Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfeld (92).

2012 World Fantasy Award Shortlists

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The shortlists for the 2012 World Fantasy Awards have been released.

As best I can tell there are two Australians on the lists:

Bluegrass Symphony, Lisa L. Hannett (Ticonderoga)

Kathleen Jennings

The awards will be announced on Sunday November 4, at the 2012 World Fantasy Convention in Toronto, Canada.

Reprint: An Australian Poet by Zadig

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Arthur Albert Dawson Bayldon is unquestionably one of the most remarkable men in Australia. He belongs to that great strange company Australia has succeeded in winning from the old world, men like Marcus Clark and Brunton Stephens and Adam Gordon, men who become more Australian than the Australians, and who voice our deeper feelings and aspirations better than we can ourselves. Bayldon has written some fine verse. Some of his sonnets may be placed side by side with all but the greatest. Here are a few lines entitled 'To Poesy," from the first Australian volume of poems, published in 1897: --   

   These vessels of verse, O Great Goddess, are filled with invisible tears,
   With the sobs and sweat of my spirit and her desolate brooding for years;
   See, I lay them -- not on thine altar, for they are unpolished and plain,
   Not rounded enough by the potter, too much burnt in the furnace of pain;
   But here on the dust, in the shadow, with a sudden wild leap of the heart,
   I kneel to tenderly kiss them, then in silence arise and depart.

The following sonnet on Marlowe is very

   With Eastern banners flaunting in the breeze,
   Royal processions, sounding fife and gong,
   And showering jewels on the jostling throng,
   March to the tramp of Marlowe's harmonies.
   He drained life's brimming goblet to the lees.
   He recked not that a peer superb and strong
   Would tune great notes to his impassioned song,
   And top his cannonading lines with ease
   To the wild clash of cymbals we behold  
   The tragic ending of his youthful life;
   The revelry of kisses bought with gold;
   The jest and jealous rival and the strife;
   A harlot weeping o'er a corpse scarce cold,
   A scullion fleeing with a bloody knife.

The Man.

But the most interesting thing about Bayldon is himself. He is a man of great energy, unquestioned ability. And yet a certain childlike simplicity seems to quite unfit him for the struggle of life. Some men have the ability that succeeds. Bayldon has the ability that fails. This is what he recently said in a New South Wales weekly of his own varied life in Australia during the last twenty years:

To enumerate the various parts I have played would take a column. A few of marked contrast will give an inkling of my many experiences. I have been a private secretary and a swagman; a rouseabout and a phrenologist; a fancy swimmer, an editor, and a canvasser of a comic monthly; teacher of English composition and clothiers' agent among kanakas; platform lecturer on Buddhism and Irish subjects, and a tea-traveller; bock canvasser and motto-writer; insurance agent and picture-dealer -- and hundreds of other things.

Yet Bayldon is a man of high character, fine appearance, insinuating address, and is still five or six years on the right side of fifty. Nature has dowered him with many gifts, but she has denied him the gift of succeeding-as the world understands success. And yet there are a few men in Australia -- and I am proud to be one of them -- who would rather spend a night with Bayldon than with the King of England. For Bayldon, in spite of bis failures, in spite of the buffetings to which a hard business world has subjected his gentle spirit, carries the gold of poetry in his heart. The world may despise him, and society may know him not, but God has laid his finger upon his brow. He is in very truth of that great company of noblemen who receive, as Burns put it, the patent of their nobility direct from Almighty God.

A Strange Meeting.

I will never forget the night I first met Arthur Bayldon. It was very late, and I was walking home alone. A young man over-took me, introduced himself, said he knew me, had heard me lecture, and at once dived into a long and involved metaphysical harangue on the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and other small matters. I walked on in silent amazement. His voice was a fine one, and he knew how to use it. He had also, as I could see by the light   of an occasional lamp, finely chiselled features, and a flashing eye. Arrived at my residence he stood at the gate and continued his monologue. After this had gone on for about a couple of hours, I ventured to remind him that it was about 3 o'clock in the morning. He regarded the observation apparently as an irrevelance. What in the name of reason had that insignificant fact to do with the problems of God and immortality? I had, however, to assure him as   politely as possible that, although philosophy was interesting, sleep was imperative, and eventually he departed.

Poet and Book Canvasser.  

I got to know him more intimately afterwards. He came to the town for the double purpose of selling his first volume of poetry and giving exhibitions in fancy swimming. He played both parts admirably. Some of his poetry was excellent, and his swimming was superb. But it was in his capacity of canvasser of his own books that he used to shine most brightly. As a poet   his place is comparatively humble; as a book-canvasser he certainly stands alone, towering above all the motley crew like a veritable colossus. Once he gained entrance into a house his book was as good as sold -- sometimes to every member of the family. For he had a masterful manner, and an arresting gift of eloquence. "Do you love poetry?" he would ask insinuatingly. When the answer was negative or affirmative, he would at once proceed to pour himself out on the subject. '"Poetry," he would cry, standing in the middle of the room gesticulating, "is the voice of God in the heart of man. As Shelley has said, poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind." And then would follow what was really powerful and dramatic oration on all the poets, ancient and modern, dead and alive. The family, as a rule, would be entranced, and an hour or two later the exhausted rhetorician would sally forth, carrying with him the names of perhaps half-a-dozen subscribers in his pocketbook, and leaving behind him a memory never to be effaced. The book, when ultimately supplied, was not specially good value, but the oration itself was worth double the money.

A Queensland Newspaper Office.

In time Bayldon and I became very good friends. Indeed, he was one of many striking personalities who used to foregather at the office of the paper I was then con- ducting. Amongst these were Frank Morton, well known to readers of the Sydney "Bulletin," Mr. Rogers, a gentleman who had strange mania for writing books, and who was reputed to be connected with the great Coleridge family, Theodore Wright, a mysterious philosopher who was distinguished by the length of his hair and an unfaltering belief in astrology; Adam Tramp, who was then, as now, an anarchist of anarchists, and occasionally William Kidston, who is now Premier of Queensland. On one occasion I had a very heated argument with Theodore Wright. I had been expressing my profound belief in the monistic philosophy of Professor Clifford when Mr. Wright exclaimed:- "You are utterly mistaken. There is not one substance in the universe; there are three substances, matter, soul, and spirit."

"What is the difference between soul and spirit?" I asked.

"You would not understand if I told you," he replied. "You will have to evolve to a higher plane before you can understand."

"But," I said indignantly, "that is an assumption. If you cannot define your words, you have no right to use them."

"My dear fellow," replied Wright, half-sarcastically, "definitions of those higher things can only be understood by those sufficiently developed to comprehend them. Could I expound philosophy to a dog?"

This was too much. Accordingly, assuming an air of great seriousness, I replied: "Mr. Wright, the everlasting spirit which permeates the universe has made known to me at this very moment a new truth. That truth is that there are four substances in the universe -- matter, soul, spirit, and poojah."      

"Nonsense," cried Wright, "what do you mean by poojah? It's only a word."  

"Ah," I replied, "I cannot define it -- to you -- you have not sufficiently developed."

"But what is it at all?" he cried, forgetting himself.

"Can I expound philosophy to a dog?" I thundered. "No, sir. You will have to develop first. And so I again declare that there are four substances in the universe -- matter, soul, spirit, and poojah, and the greatest of these is poojah." In many subsequent metaphysical arguments I have found "poojah" exceedingly convenient.

About a Sense of Humour.

On another occasion an incident occurred which I am not likely to forget. Mr. Bayldon was aware of his own gifts, though in this he showed a certain childlike sympathy which made it almost attractive. Many of his friends, including myself, had denied him the gift of humour. This gave him a great deal of pain, and I have frequently heard him trying to prove by long process of reasoning that be possessed a wit of a very high quality -- a fact which almost demonstrated its utter absence.

"No gift of humour!" he would cry indignantly, "why I'm full of it. I frequently lie in bed o' nights laughing, hours on end."

"What at?" I once asked.

"Just at things in general," he replied. "I can see humour everywhere. There is humour in the wagging of the little tail of a dog."

One day, however, he happened to say something droll, and I observed: "Why, Bayldon, you've a sense of humour, after all."

He was beside himself with joy. "You have recognised the fact at last," he cried, jumping up and taking me by the hand. "Ah, I knew you would, I knew you would."

At this moment I had to go to a butcher near by and purchase a leg of mutton, which I had promised to take home on my bicycle. Bayldon followed, exclaiming all the way: "What kind of humour have I got -- like Swift, or like Sterne, or like Lamb?"

I entered the shop, secured the leg of mutton, got it well wrapped up in paper, and, attaching it to my bicycle, mounted and rode off. But Bayldon followed. I went fast. He followed suit. I went at considerable speed. He ran alongside. And all the while he was besieging me with questions as to the peculiar characteristics of the humour I had suddenly discovered that he possessed. In consequence of my endeavours to get away from the poet, and the poet's endeavours to detain me, the bicycle began to sway erratically from side to side of the street, and, before I was aware of it the mutton emerged from its wrappings and proceeded in all its nakedness to sway violently before the eyes of men and women. "I unconditionally withdraw the compliment." I cried, jumping from my bicycle, "if either of us had the faintest ghost of any sense of humour in our soul this spectacle would be the death of us." I then fled to a secluded spot and wept. 

First published in The Western Mail, 23 July 1910

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

2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

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The shortlists for the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards have been released.

Award for Fiction

All That I Am by Anna Funder (Penguin)
The Cook by Wayne Macauley (Text)
Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears (Allen & Unwin)
Cold Light by Frank Moorhouse (Random House)
A History of Books by Gerald Murnane (Giramondo)
Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany (Pan Macmillan)

Award for Non-Fiction

1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia by James Boyce (Black Inc.)
The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage (Allen & Unwin)
Adelaide by Kerryn Goldsworthy (NewSouth)
The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays by Simon Leys (Black Inc.)
True North by Brenda Niall (Text)
Her Father's Daughter by Alice Pung (Black Inc.)

Award for Drama

National Interest by Aidan Fennessy (Melbourne Theatre Company and Black Swan State Theatre Company)
A Golem Story by Lally Katz (Malthouse Theatre)
Boxman by Daniel Keene (If Theatre, Big West Festival)

Award for Poetry

Vishvarupa by Michelle Cahill (Five Islands)
Armour by John Kinsella (Pan Macmillan)
Southern Barbarians by John Mateer (Giramondo)

Award for Writing for Young Adults

The Shadow Girl by John Larkin (Random House)
The Shiny Guys by Doug MacLeod (Penguin)
All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield (Text)

I'm not sure when  the winners will be announced.

Robert Hughes (1938-2012)

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Robert Hughes (1938-2012), the expatriate Australian art critic and writer, has died in New York after a long illness.  There are many obituaries out there already and by reading them you'll get a good idea of what he did and what he wrote.  A couple of good pieces that you may well miss have been written by Chong on his Culture Mulcher blog for Crikey.


"The Age", "The Australian", "Herald Sun", "The Sydney Morning Herald", "The Brisbane Times", "The Guardian", "The Telegraph", "The New York Times", "The Los Angeles Times", "The Financial Times".

2012 Davitt Award Shortlists

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The shortlists for the 2012 Davitt Awards have been released.

Davitt Award (Adult Fiction)

Jaye Ford, Beyond Fear (Bantam/Random)
Sulari Gentill, Decline in Prophets (Pantera Press)
Catherine Morwood, Death and the Spanish Lady (Pulp Fiction Press)
Jennifer Rowe, Love Honour & O'Brien (Allen & Unwin)
Kim Westwood, The Courier's New Bicycle (Harper Voyager)
Helene Young, Shattered Sky (Hachette Australia)

Davitt Award Children's/Young Adult

Ursula Dubosarsky, The Golden Day (Allen & Unwin)
Nansi Kunze, Dangerously Placed (Random House)
Meg McKinlay, Surface Tension (Walker Books)

Davitt Award (True Crime)

Wendy Lewis, The Australian Book of Family Murders (Pier 9/Murdoch Books)
Liz Porter, Cold Case Files: Past crimes solved by new forensic science (PanMacmillan)

The winners will be announced at a dinner to be held in Melbourne on September 1.

Caricature #15 - "Norman Lindsay" by James Montgomery Flagg

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One of my favourite blogs is "If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats"(even with the rather unnecessary comma in the title).  So it was with some interest that this drawing of Norman Lindsay popped up the other day in their "Friends of Flagg" series which features the work of American artists and illustrator James Montgomery Flagg.

Mike Shuttleworth Interview

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mike_shuttleworth.jpg    Mike Shuttleworth is the program director for the 2012 Melbourne Writers Festival. As the event gets closer, he spoke to The Wheeler Centre blog.

This is your first year as program manager with the Melbourne Writer's Festival. What's been the best thing about the job so far?

Working with a fantastic and dedicated team has been amazing. We have programming committees with a lot of expertise and that helps, too. Steve Grimwade's understanding of how to put a festival together is something to marvel at.

What's been your biggest challenge?

Aligning guests to panels so that we can show writers to their best is obviously what it's all about. Making use of visiting writers' time, so that they are busy - but not beaten like a rented mule - is always a challenge, so there is a lot of negotiation that goes on well before we launch.

Getting my head around a program with 400 writers, 350 sessions and some big international programs has been pretty challenging. It has been full-on since February, when we put the schools program to bed, and will remain that way until late on Sunday 2 September when Robert Dessaix gives the closing night address. He really is an extraordinary and singular voice in Australian writing.

Reprint: Australian Writers: To the Editor of the Herald

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Sir,--"The life austere" still too often waits upon the man of letters in Australia. Literature is the least remunerative of the arts, and very few of our authors can make enough by their pens to secure themselves against hard times. It is pleasant to see the well-named "Fellowship of Australian Writers" doing what it can to assist and to enlist help for a brother craftsman. Mr Arthur Bayldon is well known as a conscientious literary artist--a poet, critic, and writer of short stories--and those who know him personally can testify that he is a man of high ideals, fired with an almost defiant spirit of independence. He and his wife, brave comrades, have never asked for the help that they have sorely needed. Long wasting illness has worn the poet down and reduced his earning power. The "Fellowship" is arranging for him a benefit (under the patronage of his Excellency the Governor and Lady Game), and 'Steele Rudd,' with characteristic generosity, has placed at its disposal one of his cheerful comedies, "McClure and the Poor Parson." Laughter is worth more than usual at this season, and it is to be hoped that those who need cheering-up, as well as those who have at heart the interests of Australian literature, will see and seize their opportunity.

I am, etc.,

Basil Garstang

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November 1930

Note: Basil Garstang was a pseudonym of John Le Gay Brereton.

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

Mischa Merz Interview

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bruising.jpg    I must admit that, post Ali, I haven't had a lot of interest in boxing. In the sixties and seventies it seemed to be a global cultural phenomenon. Maybe because, aside from the Olympics, it was the only sport that seemed to be televised and viewed across the world. I've noticed the steady rise of women's boxing, but only in passing. Angela Meyer may have a similar overall view of the sport - I can't be sure - but she was certainly intrigued and captivated by Mischa Merz's Bruising, an account of her life in the ring. Meyer interviewed the author for her weblog LiteraryMinded.

You mention in the book that women are encouraged to be aware of aggression, or aggressive exercise as catharsis, but are generally discouraged to take it as far as fighting. Do you think many women might be held back by what they still see as 'inappropriate' displays of strength and ferocity?

I think probably less and less with each generation. Women of my age (without being too specific) were probably more self-conscious and you still hear them worry about building too much muscle or looking strong. And in some of the classes I have taken they are appalled at the suggestion of hitting someone. Even when I ask them to hit me, who has been hit many times and is virtually immune to it, they shake their heads as if I have asked them to decapitate me. Others are more keen to give it a go and a small number of them can be quite dangerous and I have to really watch myself with them. Back when I started, though, aggression by women was still regarded as something only the insane or hysterical would do or maybe a last resort for a woman being attacked. People struggled with the idea that it was functional rather than emotional and that physical aggression has legitimate application in sport. But this idea that you only hit someone if you're upset or out of control made it hard for women to take it on. They quite naturally didn't want to look crazy. And fair enough. But these days I see teenage girls really mixing it up and getting very physical and aggressive in sport without a second thought. I think there's a parallel with surfing. Women's surfing has really taken off in the same time frame as I have been boxing and they had to deal with the same doubts and discouragement. But then men were teaching their daughters from young and so a whole bunch of women have popped up fully formed. But there is still a bit of resistance with boxing. Men still say things like 'girls are too pretty to box' as if there are no pretty boys also boxing. It also implies that a woman's looks are more important than anything else about them. But I've seen quite a few women now with slightly bent noses and frankly, it enhances their looks. Maybe that's just me seeing them through the skewed eyes of a fanatic. I tend to regard anyone with a broken nose as being slightly more beautiful.

Australian Bookcovers #316 - Blueback by Tim Winton

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Blueback by Tim Winton, 1997
Cover illustration by Bettina Guthridge
Macmillan edition 1997

2012 Age Book of the Year Shortlists

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The shortlists for the 2012 Age Book of the Year Awards have been released.


Forecast: Turbulenc
e by Janette Turner Hospital
What The Family Needed by Steven Amsterdam
Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears
The Meaning Of Grace by Deborah Forster
Spirit House by Mark Dapin


1835: The Founding Of Melbourne & The Conquest Of Australia by James Boyce
Double Entry by Jane Gleeson-White
Kinglake-350 by Adrian Hyland
Hiroshima Nagasaki by Paul Ham
Fishing The River Of Time by Tony Taylor


Late Night Shopping by Ryhll McMaster
First Light by Kate Fagan
Surface To Air by Jaya Savige
The Welfare Of My Enemy by Anthony Lawrence
The Brokenness Sonnets I-III And Other Poems by Mal McKimmkie

The winners will be announced during the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Venero Armanno Interview

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venero_armanno.jpg    Venero Armanno's ninth novel, Black Mountain has just been published by University of Queensland Press. He spoke to Jessica Au of the "Readings" weblog:

The novel takes us from the sulphur mines of Sicily to the slopes of Mt Etna and into the centre of 20th century Paris - what was a research process like?

Both those areas you mention were infinitely fascinating to me, so there came a time when I had to physically force myself to quit the research and actually start writing.

Really, the terrible nature of life and death in the sulphur mines, juxtaposed with the excesses of life in the Paris of the twenties - especially in the maisons closes (legalised high-class brothels) - could have kept me occupied another ten or twenty years.

The thing is, I'm a writer of fiction, so I always need to remind myself that research isn't 'story' and that there is a time to absorb all that research, and consider it, then more or less forget it and start to concentrate on characters and what their particular journeys might be.

I will say though that I've now got material enough for plenty more books that might flow from Black Mountain. We'll just have to see if this one finds a readership interested in seeing what might come next.

Poem: The Poet's Lyre by C. J. Dennis

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No longer are heard in C. J. Dennis's mountain home at Toolangi, to which he has just taken his bride, the strains of the banjo of his bachelorhood. He made the instrument himself - of native blackwood, galvanised-iron, the skin of a cat and the sinews of a wallaby. Let it sound its own requiem:

Just like the 'arp that onst on Tara's wall
   'Ung dumb as steak inside a butcher's shop,
I am the ghost of this 'ere festival:
   It ain't no cop
For me, what Low onst put in a cartoon;
I'm second fiddle in this 'oneymoon.

The dinkum days that 'im an' me 'ave spent!
   Though sooperseded by a gramophone,
I never tumbled it was permanent -
   That on me own
I'd lag soo-blanky-perfluous on the stage,
A silent oracle, like last week's AGE.

'Struth, it's enough to make me whip the cat
   'Oose skin was tanned me apron for to make,
To think I should be outed - on me pat.
   It takes the cake!
Though I can't play no "Chanson Sans Paroles"
Songs without words is surgin' through me soul!

Songs without words!  Ar, they was good ole times
   W'en songs 'ad words - it seems but yesterday
'Is fingers on my strings thrummed out the rhyms
   (And 'e could play!)
That were to bring 'im fame in "Ginger Mick."
'E scooped the pool - 'twas me that took the trick!

I scanned 'is lines for 'im without a 'itch;
   To me 'e owes the metre of 'is verse;
Ar, crool fate wot narked my concert-pitch!
   It makes me curse
The luck that turned, the forchune that betrayed,
My maker, an' the day that I was made.

Also, no more may sound an' strings combine
   As in the days ere I was carst aside;
Yet I am something more than tin an' twine -
   I 'ave me pride;
An' 'e don't recognise, by word or sign,
The mess 'e's made o' this 'ere life o' mine.

Yet, callin' back the old familiar tunes
   That galvanised the iron in me frame
(Now silent, spare me days, for many moons).
   I'd do the same
As I 'ave done, an' all my sould evoke
To re-inspire "The Sentimental Bloke."

The wind 'as mobs o' trees fer its delight,
   But only one was chosen for 'is lyre:
Mine was the wood 'e tipped would best ignite
   The poet's fire;
And of my fuel, may this coal glow red
W'ich my forgiveness 'eaps upon 'is 'ead!

First published in The Bulletin, 30 August 1917

Reprint: A Chat with Mr. Fergus Hume

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The author of a book that has sold to the extent of 300,000 copies in England alone, not to mention an enormous sale in Australia and America, and that has been so much talked about as "The Mystery of a Hansom Cab," may fairly claim a niche in the temple of, at least, ephemeral fame. Consequently, hearing of Mr. Fergus Hume's arrival in England from Australia, a representative of the Sunday Times waited upon him with the object of "drawing him out."

Mr. Fergus Hume, we are told, is a young man, in his twenty-fifth year, with a bright intelligent face, keen eyes, a dark moustache, and of middle height. His manner is quiet and unassuming, and his accent in speaking is somewhat provincial.

"I have been just twelve days in London," says Mr. Hume, " but have seen very little of it as yet, though I am just longing to see all the sights. But we -- that is, my friend Philip Beck and I -- have been working so hard to finish the adaptation of my new book, 'Madame Midas,' as we want to produce the play, for copyright purposes, before the publication of the book on July 7."

"That will be sharp work."  

" Ah, thank goodness, the play is now finished."

"'Madame Midas' is also a story of Australian life, is it not?"

"Yes; and chiefly concerned with the mining interests in the Colony. You see, Farjeon and Marcus Clarke, our two Australian novelists, have dealt with the Australia of a past day -- the rougher times of the Colony. But my desire is to picture the Australia of to-day, to destroy a common impression in England that the miners are still the lawless haphazard diggers of the past, and to convey a true knowledge of the mining industry, which is now carried on on the most scientific principles. To this end I spent some weeks at the Midas mine -- one of the best conducted and most promising in the Colony -- and studied the whole scientific system of gold mining, so as to make my story as realistic as possible. My heroine I have partly drawn from life, being a lady who has become famous in Australia on account of her gold-mining successes. She is an owner of many mines, and works them herself, and in the colony she is known as 'Madame Midas.' Of course, the incidents of the plot, though in the main based on fact, are highly-coloured and elaborated according to the requirements of the story. The first part is laid at the mines, and subsequently the story deals with the stock and share markets in Melbourne. There is an interesting case of poisoning, and the heroine's love story is quite romantic."

"Is the story dramatic?"

" I think so--very. And it is also, I hope and believe, a great advance in every way on 'The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.' That book I wrote when I was very ill and hard-up, not very encouraging conditions for an unknown author to write under; and I know there is consequently some very slippery writing in the book. It was six months before I could get any publisher to take it up, and then a Mr. Trischler, who was connected with a publishing firm in Melbourne, took a fancy to the story, and undertook to arrange for its publication. The Melbourne publishers expected only five hundred would be sold in six months, but Mr. Trischler believed in the book, and an edition of 5000 copies was accordingly printed. These were sold out in eleven days, and the type having been distributed it was two months before the second edition came out, and then they soon sold 30,000 copies. So successful was the book that Mr. Trischler formed ' The Hansom Cab Publishing Company,' and, publishing the book over here, they have made no end of money out of it."  

"I trust you have shared financially in this success?"  

"I can't complain; they gave me a good sum down for the copyright, though had I known that the success was going to be so immense, I would never have parted with the book. However, for 'Madame Midas' they have given me very handsome terms, and I need hardly say how anxious I am about its success. I should hate to be known as a 'one book man.' Consequently I have put my best into this work."  

"Was the 'Hansom Cab' your first literary work?"

"No. I had been dabbling in literature for some time, though intended for the law, and engaged in a lawyer's office. While living in New Zealand I wrote several stories for the newspapers, and one of these--a psychological romance--attracted some attention. Then I wrote two or three plays for Australian theatres, one of which, 'A Woman Scorned,' was produced by Miss Marie de Grey."

"Are you a native Australian?"

"No, but I have lived in the Colonies since I was two years old. My parentage is a mixture of Scotch and Irish. Till I was twenty-one I lived in New Zealand, where I was admitted to the Bar, but never practised as a barrister, and for the last three years Melbourne has been my home, and there I have spent my time between literature, the law, and the Stock Market."

"And now you are fairly launched on the career of a novelist?"

"And playwright. In that connection I have entered into a partnership with Mr. Philip Beck, the actor, who has been playing in Melbourne for the last two years, and who has just returned home with me. The play of 'Madame Midas' is our joint work."

First published in The Maitland Mercury, 18 August 1888

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

Amusing Literary Terms #2 - Muphry's Law

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Muphry's Law

John Bangsund of the Society of Editors (Victoria) in Australia identified Muphry's law as "the editorial application of the better-known Murphy's law" and set it down in 1992 in the Society of Editors Newsletter.

The law, as set out by Bangsund, states that:

    (a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written;
    (b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
    (c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault;
    (d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.

It goes on to say:

    Muphry's Law also dictates that, if a mistake is as plain as the nose on your face, everyone can see it but you. Your readers will always notice errors in a title, in headings, in the first paragraph of anything, and in the top lines of a new page. These are the very places where authors, editors and proofreaders are most likely to make mistakes.

Source - Wikipedia

Nicki Reed Interview

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unzipped.jpg    Nicki Reed's debut novel Unzipped is published this month by Text. She spoke to the "Readings" website about the novel, seeing it in a bookshop for the first time and Daniel Craig.

Tell us about the first time you ever saw one of your books in a bookshop.

The first time I saw Unzipped was at Readings Carlton. I looked at it and couldn't look at it. I didn't cry but I considered it. I was with a friend and she took a photo of >me and the book on her phone. Later I walked past the Australian authors section and there was that beautiful cover, face-out and eye-level, shock and delight and good measure of 'eh?!'

In an alternate life, what would you be if not a writer?

Who needs an alternate life? I've got two lives. The writing life, where I've written a novel, had it published, people care what I think and my domestic life, three sons and a husband, parent teacher interviews, wrestles over homework and kisses goodnight. It is peculiar to turn up to a photo shoot and an interview then get back into your car and be who you were before. See missed calls from your other life. Which Nicki will I be today?

2012 Ned Kelly Award Shortlists

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The shortlists for the 2012 Ned Kelly Awards have been released.

True Crime

Liz Porter, Cold Case Files (Pan Macmillan)
Michael Duffy, Call Me Cruel (Allen & Unwin)
Eamonn Duff, Sins of the Father (Allen & Unwin)
Best First Fiction

Kim Westwood, The Courier's New Bicycle (Harper Collins)
Peter Twohig, The Cartographer (Harper Collins)
Claire Corbett, When We Have Wings (Allen & Unwin)

Best Fiction

Malcolm Knox, The Life (Allen & Unwin)
Barry Maitland, Chelsea Mansions (Allen & Unwin)
J.C. Burke, Pig Boy (Random House)

The awards will be announced at a ceremony to be held in Melbourne on August 29th.

Reprint: Gaeity Theatre. "Mystery of a Hansom Cab"

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Another change in the programme was made on Saturday night. Several dramatised versions of Mr. Fergus Hume's sensational Australian novel have been witnessed before in Brisbane, but Mr. Taylor, in dealing with "The Mystery of a Hansom Cab," as told by the novelist, has succeeded in investing the story with a new interest. The principal incidents of the plot are brought prominently into view; and enough is made of the side issues to impart to many of the scenes the amount of comedy necessary in plays of this description. The result is a thrilling, yet at times amusing, comedy-drama. Throughout four acts, comprising close upon a dozen scenes, the interest is well kept up, and when in the final scene, Madge learns the truth at last, Sam Gorby brings the villain Fitzgerald to justice, and all ends as the audience has all along hoped it would end, no one gives a sigh of relief that all is over. Of the representation it is only necessary to say that it was really a good one. The members of the company have played so long together that there are no hitches in a first night's performance. All the resources of the actor were brought into play by Mr. Charles Taylor, who was seen now as Sam Gorby, the cool calculating detective, then as the ludicrous new chum swell, and again in the guise of a Jew insurance agent. Miss Ella Carrington ably filled the rule of Madge Frettleby, a typical Australian girl, and with Mr. Taylor shared the honours of the evening. The other members of the company gave efficient support. The drama was suitably staged, and the tableau in the first act, showing the hansom, cab, the horse, the driver, the victim, and the murderer, was sufficiently realistic for all purposes. The "Mystery of a Hansom Cab" has been repeated throughout the week.

First published in The Queenslander, 2 April 1892

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

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