Recently in Items of Interest Category

Amusing Literary Terms #5 - Tmesis

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Tmesis is the insertion of one or more words between the words that make up a compound phrase. For example: "what-so-ever" inserted in the middle of "whatever."

- from

It may not actually be a literary term but it is pretty amusing none-the-less.  And thinking about it I wonder if it can be used to describe the Australian practice of inserting the word "bloody" into other words: such as "abso-bloody-lutely".  Which then leads me to C.J. Dennis's poem "The Australaise".

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.

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.

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

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).

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

Searching for a Heart

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In the past couple of days we've learned that the Australian Federal Government will not attempt to stop David Hicks from obtaining royalties from his memoir of his time in Gitmo.  John Birmingham reckons Hicks is a "disgraceful tool", but thinks the government is even worse for wasting time, money and effort to stop the author from receiving his dues. He's right, as usual.

At any one time there's always someone in the Australian literary blogging community who appears to be in the ascendant - maybe they are just about to have a major work published or appear to have their finger on the pulse of what is going on.  A few years back it was Angela Meyer who ran the Literary Minded weblog for Crikey and who has now pretty much become established everywhere.  We now only await the first novel.  Currently I have my eye on Estelle Tang, proprietor of the 3000 Books weblog and an editor at Oxford University Press. She answers a few questions for the Wheeler Centre which will give you some idea of what she is up to.

Justine Larbalestier describes her recent visit to a Sydney high school to talk about her latest book, Team Human, and, in the process, remembers a visit to her high school back when she was in year 10 by a very, very scarey author.

Chris Womersley has been nominated for a CWA (Crime Writers' Association) Gold Dagger Award in the UK for his novel Bereft.  

Ailsa Piper's new book details her "sin-walk" of 1300 kilometres across Spain.  Her essay on the Meanjin blog about her bookshop pilgrimage around Australia seems to have been no less enlightening.

I reckon if Kim Wilkins worked as a dominatrix she'd make a fortune.  She offers advice to writers: basically, shut up and get on it with.  As she says: "And all this is true, I know, because I am a fucking expert and I am always right."

Amusing Literary Terms #1 - Dischism

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Every form of human endeavour has its own jargon, its own lexicon and its own store of just-plain-weird terms.  The literary world is no different.  Herewith the first in a series of amusing literary terms I've come across.


Intrusion of author's physical surroundings (or mental state) into the narrative. Like the character who always lights a cigarette when the author does, or is thinking about how they wished they hadn't quit smoking. In more subtle forms, the characters complain that they're confused and don't know what to do -- when this is actually the author's condition. - From the  Turkey City Lexicon, attributed to Thomas M. Disch.

The French Inhaler

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And again I picked the title for this post before the items listed below were discovered.  The aptness of the titles in this series is starting to get a little scary.

Susan Johnson has been receiving mixed reviews for her latest novel My Hundred Lovers.  She details some of the differences and notes that they "say as much about the reader as about the book."  Reviewers should aim for an unbiased, objective approach, rather than one based solely on the subject material, or their perceived view of it.

Angelique Montaine is a Frenchwoman living in Australia who slowly came to the realisation that while she knew a bit about Australian film and music she knew next to nothing about Australian literature.  That led her to start a blog on the subject, written in French.  She describes how and why this came about in a piece for Meanjin.

Debut Adelaide author Hannah Kent seems to have hit the big-time with her novel Burial Rights. The novel is described as "a historical novel based on Agnes Magnusdottir, a servant convicted of murder and beheaded in Iceland in 1830." 

This year's Melbourne Writers' Festival has appointed three official bloggers and you can meet Angela Meyer, Stephanie Honor Convery, and Mark Welker on the MWF blog.

American science fiction writer Mary Robinette Kowal runs a weblog called "Mary Robinette Kowal", which seems fair enough.  Lately she's been running a series of guest posts by writer friends titled "My Favourite Bit", in which the authors discuss their favourite parts in or about their latest book.  Sean Williams gets in on the act as he discusses Trouble Twisters: The Monster, his collaboration with Garth Nix.

From time to time London-based ex-pat kimbofo runs a "Triple Choice Tuesday" on her weblog "Reading Matters". This gives various readers, writers and bloggers the opportunity to describe three books which mean a lot to them under the categories "a favourite book", "a book that changed my world", and "a book that deserves a wider audience".  This week's triple-treater is Australian author Alex Miller.

Peter Carey's novel Oscar and Lucinda has been chosen by John Mullen, in The Guardian, as containing one of the ten best horse races in literature.  It's been so long since I read the book that I don't remember any horse races at all in the novel.


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The 1919 silent film adaptation of C.J. Dennis's The Sentimental Bloke is now available on DVD.  Gerard Elson of "Readings" takes a look.

The Oxford English Dictionary has finally included the word "bogan", a classic Aussie term.  The dictionary defines the word as a "depreciative term for unfashionable, uncouth, or unsophisticated person, esp. of low social status".

John Birmingham describes the slow decline and fall of the Fairfax empire as "our fault", as we aren't buying the papers.  He's correct, but not about me, of course - I have a subscription.  Trouble is Fairfax were warned about this and should have seen it coming years ago.  And I still miss the late-lamented "Nation Review".

Susan Johnson has been busy doing the rounds promoting her latest novel My Hundred Lovers. Seems a few people have been a bit misled by that title.  Can't think why.

While probably not having the same number of "horizontal dancing partners" Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James seems to have as many imitators.

My Ride's Here

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Australian writer Elliot Perlman lists his "Five of the Best Holocaust Memoirs" for the "Campaign for the American Reader" weblog.

Garth Nix talks to "Wired" magazine about his upcoming novel, the lost video game, and his past and future writing.  Question: could the photographer get any CLOSER?

Gavin Aung Than is a freelance illustrator living in Melbourne.  He creates comic strips out of inspirational quotes and he recently picked up Neil Gaiman's recent commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  Gaiman, who keeps an eye on these things, found the strip and hopes to thank the artist personally next time he's in town. 

"The Guardian" newspaper in the UK, in association with National Book Tokens, has launched an interactive literary map of the UK, allowing you to zoom in on bookshops, bookish events and literary connections based on location.  Oh, for an Australian version.

The news is out that the 2012 Melbourne Writers Festival program will be available on July 20.

Splendid Isolation

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Text Publishing is re-issuing Patrick White's novel, Happy Valley, sometime later this year.  It will be the first time in 70 years it has seen a new edition.  Copies of the first edition are reputedly going for $10,000.

Margo Lanagan has been a tad busy with Writers' Festivals this year and is now looking forward to spending some time just contemplating her own writing.  Between further literary commitments of course.

Susan Johnson has figured out how to link to PDF files from her blog, and has now linked to a recent piece of journalism she wrote regarding her latest novel, and the question of how much of your own life you should plunder for your fiction.  I thought along those lines once until I figured out I just didn't have a life worth plundering.

After "... twelve years of careful writing, revising, deleting, setting random pages of my manuscript on fire during intermittent moments of neurosis and depression, contending with the third-degree burns that came from manuscript conflagrations..." etc etc, Edward Champion has finally finished his memoir.  It's, well, rather short.  But does, as he implies, have a sense of proportion.

Sentimental Hygiene

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If you use modern technology properly you can actually make things easier at a literary festival.  Just like the Sydney Writers' Festival that instituted an "overflow" room for sold-out sessions.

Helen Garner's novel The Spare Room is being adapted for the stage by British actors Eileen Atkins and Vanessa Redgrave.  Atkins was looking for a play with a "lighter touch", couldn't find anything and so decided to write her own.  Garner seems impressed.

Sophie Cunningham has announced on Twitter that she is the new head of the Literature Board.  What happened to press releases?

Max Barry explains why it takes so long for a book to go from draft to bookshop.

W.H. Chong has been designing the covers for the new range of Text Classics that are out and about - the yellow ones, you can't miss them.  He's giving a talk, about the process he goes through to produce a cover design, at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on May 31st.

Lisa Hill, of the ANZ LitLovers blog, has been named Best Australian Blog (Words category).  Very well done indeed.

The original E.L. James book Fifty Shades of Grey is now a trilogy - well, I suppose it was always going to be, it's just that they are all finally out there - and "The New York Times" is reporting that the series has now sold over 10 million copies in the US alone.  It has also been sold to around 37 countries and the film rights have been snapped up.

On the Meanjin blog Chris Flynn contemplates the problems of shifting all the books when moving house.  His plan was to cull - moving all those that missed the cut to a storage unit - and only keeping those books he truly needed.  Nice idea, but just remember the implications of the title of Anthony Powell's novel Books Do Furnish a Room.

Trouble Waiting to Happen

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Neil Gaiman mentions P.L. Travers (author of the Mary Poppins books) in an interview for "The New York Times".  Seems she wrote stories that made him want to be a writer. The note is on page 2.

Steve Grimwade has been the director of the past two Melbourne Writers' Festivals, and has now decided that the 2012 edition will be his last. He's given the Festival Board plenty of time to find a replacement and to have that person attend this year's event. Very classy handover.

Tim Winton has been in Canberra seeing Environment Minister Tony Burke, urging him to sign-off on plans for a marine sanctuary in Western Australian waters.

Looks like Amazon is trying to find warehouse space for a push into the Australian book market.

If you know Justine Larbalestier, or are related to her, she has now given you permission to not read her books.  She'd like you to, but it isn't compulsory.

Australian poet John Kinsella will appear at Poetry Parnassus at London's Southbank Centre, in a pre-Olympics arts event.

John Birmingham ponders the lives of his characters between novels.  He also wishes he had the time to develop his characters like George R.R. Martin does in his Game of Thrones epic.  The trouble there is that Martin keeps on killing his characters off, main players as well.  You know, like it happens in the real world. As my daughter was reading the series she kept calling out: "He's killed another one!"

Lawyers, Guns and Money

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Estelle Tang, at "3000 Books", has bought herself an iPad as an all-format ebook reader.  She seems to be enjoying it. I have a number of Sherlock Holmes novels and collections on mine which I really need to get to.  A sample read of one chapter leads me to think the device is pretty good but I should read a full novel before making a final judgment.

Peter Carey lists Stephen Haff, a school-teacher in Brooklyn, as his hero for "The Guardian".

The British Cartoon Archive, out of the University of Kent in the UK, has a set of about 154 cartoons by Will Dyson, and over 800 by David Low.

Peter Corris explains the difference between "literary" and "popular" fiction over at "The Newtown Review of Books".

Parts of "Little Lon" are set to be demolished.  C.J. Dennis wrote about the area in his verse novel The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, though I'm not sure he actually mentioned the VD Clinic.

Jungle Work

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After my note earlier this week about Text Publishing re-issuing a number of Australian classics, I came across news of one person's attempt to rekindle interest in Joseph Furphy's classic Such is Life by making a short film of an excerpt of the book.  Might work if it wins a short film contest but I can only see it getting lost on YouTube somewhere.  I applaud the thought however.
There's a mildly amusing joke somewhere about a young Irish literature student starting work on a construction site and being asked if he knew the difference between a girder and a joist.  I don't think J. M. Coetzee had that in mind when he wrote this piece about the young Goethe for The New York Review of Books.

Penguin Books in Australia has started to release a series of short literary works called, reasonably enough, Penguin Shorts.  They follow the same format and coloring as their re-issued classics but have been released as ebooks, and James Bradley has details of his novellette, Beauty's Sister, which is part of the series.
Clive James has been in the news for a number reasons lately - his on-going ill-health and some extra-curricular activities being among them - but this essay from an issue of Poetry magazine returns him to his literary youth when he encountered William Empson, one of his poetry heroes. I don't have that luxury as all mine are dead.
Commentary magazine has released its list of books for summer reading - Northern hemisphere of course.  They've included Peter Carey's novel The Chemistry of Tears and describe the author as a "perennial favorite for the Nobel Prize," and Kate Grenville's novel Sarah Thornhill.

Accidentally Like a Martyr

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It appears that the incoming Liberal/National Party government in Queensland has decided to scrap the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards as a cost-cutting exercise.  Saving approximately $250k out of a $40bn budget seems rather petty.  I think the Arts community in that state is probably in for a bit of a hammering over the next few years.  However, in the wake of this decision, comes the news of a movement to continue the awards under a different name.

And then in the state due south of Queensland, the Conservative Government of Barry O'Farrell is "reinvigorating" his Premier's Literary Awards.

Chong went along to the Wheeler Centre recently to hear Robert Dessaix speak.  Good illustrations as well.

I Know I've Made It as a Writer When...

Sonya Hartnett has been included on the longlist for the 2012 Carnegie Medal for her novel The Midnight Zoo.

I haven't read Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas so can't actually be sure that this adaptation is of his novel.  The in-coming links seem to imply that it is.

Johnny Strikes Up the Band

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Margo Lanagan jumps from one Writers' Festival to another; after being lauded at the Adelaide Writers' Week she's now off to Australian Writers' Week in Beijing.

Peter Carey with tatts representing his two Booker wins? Footballers do it, so why not writers?  I was going to say "I'd like to see that", but given the body locations of some of these tattoos I'm not so sure.

The big news this week on the e-book front concerns an "erotic" novel by Australian writer Amanda Hayward titled Fifty Shades of Grey.  Trouble is, as John Birmingham points out, it's really just re-packaged fan fiction.

Max Barry likens blogs to one-day cricket - dying but not quite dead.  He has a point.

Nicola Moriarty is the third sibling in her family to become a published author.  With a surname like that we can only suspect some sort of a "conspiracy".

D.M. Cornish has news about two new books he's working on: "The second is a proper novel that the more I work on it, the more I feel might stretch out into the usual fat, multi-volume "epic" (for want of a better word) I found myself stumbling into with MBT."

John Kinsella worries that restricting the teaching of Australian literature to a designated "canon" is a mistake.  I'd agree with that. Kinsella doesn't say we shouldn't teach the classics, just that we should be willing to add works when and where needed.

Empty-Handed Heart

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If you've ever wondered how you should write a book pitch for a publisher then check out John Birmingham's latest.

Writing's hard, we know that.  But do you really have to do it day after day in the same clothes?

The C.J. Dennis poem "Wheat" was recently recited at an Australia Day festival in Cootamundra.  It was chosen as 2012 is the Australian Year of the Farmer.

Clive James is back reviewing television for "The Telegraph" - always a good thing.

James Bradley has been noticeably absent from the blogging field for the past couple of months, but it looks like he's back now.  And, by the way, he's been a tad busy in the meantime.

And Chong is back from Paris checking out Petty (that's Bruce, not Tom), and listening to the "Lexicon Valley" podcast, which sounds rather interesting.  I struggle to keep up with the ones I already listen to but this one might force itself in anyway. 

Play It All Night Long

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If you're looking for a bit of light entertainment, and a way of seeing if you really have been paying attention all these years, then check out Harriet Vietch's literary holiday quiz in The Age - you have to match characters with the novels in which they appeared.  I, needless to say, was hopeless.

Ex-patriate Clive James has been awarded a CBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List.  Having not much interest in these things I was unaware that it is ony one step below a knighthood.

Ben Naparstek has left his position as editor of "The Monthly" and been replaced by John van Tiggelen.  Naparstek has moved to the Fairfax weekly "Good Weekend".

The "Alien Onion" crew - aka the Allen & Unwin bloggers - are pretty enthusiatic about a few of their books coming out this year.  Especially those of Garth Nix, Lili Wilkinson and Margo Lanagan. A very strong line-up indeed.

Everyone likes to makes lists of their best books of the year (eg James Bradley, and Kimbofo), but so far Chong is the only one I've seen who lists his favourite podcasts. I listen to a number of podcasts on the train on my way to work and yet none of Chong's are on my iTumes subscription lists.  Might change that now.

John Baxter - an Australian in Paris - has written a number of biographies over the years.  His latest is of J.G. Ballard, the new-wave sf writer who died in 2009 and who is best known for The Empire of the Sun (missed out on the Booker and later filmed by Spielberg).  That biography has received a bit of critical lashing and has now been thumped by the late writer's daughter.

She left Australia in 1998 and now finds herself facing a huge list of Australian books she feels compelled to read, so kimbofo has dedicated herself to all literature things Australian by designating January 2012 as her Australian Literature Month.  Results of her first week are now in.

Instances of Matilda #7

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matilda_mansions b19190605-p22.jpg

First published in The Bulletin, 5 June 1919

Early Book Advertisement #1

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First published in The Bulletin, 28 April 1910

Instances of Matilda #6

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Answers to Correspondents

"E.W.D." : Re origin of the word "Matilda" as applied to a swag. There is a reference under heading "Waltzing Matilda," "Red Page" for July 17th, 1897. "Matilda" is a typical name for the fair sex in comic songs (and one might add, farces and stage-plays), and was applied to the swag through some lonely bushman's association of the same with the female partner he longs for. (Compare the bolster called a " Dutch wife.") Some bushies rig up their swags to look like dummy females, with tied-in neck and waist, "Waltzing" became an easy addition from the idea of continued going round a circle of stations -- and so on.

First published
in The Bulletin, 28 April 1904

Tenderness on the Block

Kimbofo, ex-Australian, current-UK resident lit blogger, apparently doesn't like the concept of writing in books: "Indeed, I'm happy to report that The Canal, easily consumed in a few sittings, is the least boring novel I have read in a long while. I found it so thought-provoking that I committed what I regard as a cardinal sin, as far as books are concerned, and defaced every second or third page by underlining entire passages and scribbling notes in the margins."  Surely not a cardinal sin.  Hardly a sin at all.  It's not something that I do, generally preferring to use small, sticky flags to indicate parts of a book I would like to refer to in a review, but I really don't see anything wrong with writing in a book or underlining sections.  

James Bradley was in Melbourne for one day during the recent sf convention and he and I contrived to completely miss each other in the mayhem.  Still, he seems to have got over that disappointment, to be very excited about his new book.

In "The Times" Barry Forshaw and Laura Wilson pick the best crime novels for each year for 2000-09. Of Australian interest is the choice of The Broken Shore by Peter Temple as the best novel for 2006.

Even after 21 books, Kim Wilkins, this time masquerading as "Kimberley Freeman", still has feelings of trepidation whenever a new book hits the stands.

We already have an on-going series of books titled The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction, and now we learn that this will be joined by The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror.  Doesn't seem that long ago that filling one such book with any story in the genre, let along "the best", would have been near impossible. That, or very, very slim.


Mr. Bad Example

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

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



Desperados Under the Eaves

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

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

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

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

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

Hasten Down the Wind

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

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

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

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

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

Nightime in the Switching Yard

Craig Silvey has been longlisted for the 2010 Dylan Thomas award for his novel, Jasper Jones.  This award "is open to any published writer in the English language under the age of thirty".

Angela Savage interviewed Garry Disher at the recent Crime and Justice Festival, which I would have gone to, except I was in Adelaide for my father's birthday - one ending in "0", so it was a tad important.  I especially liked the bit in Angela's post: "I also asked Garry about how his approach to the latest Wyatt novel changed or was influenced by the Challis and Destry novels he has written, and he suggested he has become better at 'layering' his writing."  Why did I like it?  Because it was a question I suggested to Angela, leading up to the event.  I sent it in an email and forgot to post it to her blog.  My apologies Angela.  But I'm glad it got asked, and answered.  Shane Maloney reckons Disher's Wyatt is the best Australian crime novel ever written.  A big call, as they say in the classics.

Kate Holden, author of In My Skin, had a Wikipedia page created for her.  Trouble was, it was taken down very shortly afterwards as it was deemed, by someone as "...doesn't indicate importance/significance."  You never know who these people making these judgements really are.  They tend to be people who either delight in deleting stuff they don't think is worthy, or who have no knowledge of the subject matter and therefore consider it unimportant.  Don't get me started.  I have fought these battles.  They tend towards the mindless and very, very irritating.

In the middle of 2009, Steve Grimwade (currently director of the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival) released Literary Melbourne, a collection of prose and poetry which provided a literary and cultural view of the city of Melbourne.  And now Kathleen Noonan wonders whether Brisbane has a distinctive literary voice as well.  Best way to find out: produce something similar to Grimwade's anthology and see what happens.

The "International Noir Fiction" blog remembers an Australian crime novel written in the style of Jim Thompson and Ken Bruen, namely Dark Angel by John Dale.  The author won Ned Kelly awards for this and his other novel, The Dogs are Barking.  I'll have to try to track them down.  But Dale isn't forgotten entirely, he's appearing during the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival.

Excitable Boy

It really is time I resurrected this Friday feature as I trawl through the by-ways and backwaters of the intertubes, looking for wacky and interesting stuff.  Well, okay, it may not be interesting to you, just to me.  We have to be clear on who's running this show.

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, I've changed the song titles.

I really like the "Letters of Note" weblog.  It posts scans of letters from one notable to another, often with very funny results.  Who, for example, would have thought that Enid Blyton would feel compelled to write, in 1964, to then Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies about some derogatory remarks he made about a book of hers.

Narelle Harris is the author of The Opposite of Life, a Melbourne-based vampire novel.  She told the "Campaign for the American Reader" weblog what books she was reading.  This was posted in December 2009, so loko on this as a Christmas list.

The "Detectives without Borders" weblog loved Peter Temple's Jack Irish novels and The Broken Shore, and then discovered the South African-ness in the author's novels Identity Theory and In the Evil Day.

The Bookhugger weblog posed the questions: "When using real places and real historical figures in your fiction, do the familiar elements make it easier for the reader to focus on the core of the story? How do you stop it becoming a distraction? And do you take liberties to meet the needs of the story?"  And James Bradley, amongst others, had answers for them.

Nicholas Jose, who was general editor of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, was asked by the "Five Books" weblog to name his top five Australian novels.  Interesting list as well.

And lastly, here's a weird name for a weblog: "I Wish I was Ern Malley". Seems to have died, unfortunately.

The Fuse

Margo Lanagan is helping out her Russian translator of Tender Morsels.  The word under discussion here is "mudwife" - which Margo explains is a corruption of "midwife".  Just goes to show how much we take more granted in our use of our language.   And if you want to know what a World Fantasy Award looks like then here is Margo's.

Chris Lawson trawls the list of search engine phrases readers have used to get to his weblog "Talking Squid".  Some of them are very odd.

Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld have been offering writing tips for those attempting NaNoWriMo - which is short for National Novel Writing Month; a concept that gets people to commit to writing a novel of 50,000 words during November.  Justine's latest tip: turn the Internet off.  Good tip if you want to get anything done actually.

Tired of hunting down living authors to question, Lucy Sussex decides that dead ones stay put and has an interview with Barbara Baynton (dead since 1929) in the latest issue of Midnight Echo.

"Hackpacker" has been inside the new Centre for Books and Writing in Melbourne and has come back with pictures.

Bookcover Comparison - On the Turning Away

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You might remember this little co-incidence of book covers which showed high-divers against a clear sky background. Now we have the following:

lovesong.jpg    stealing_picasso.jpg

Not quite the same but an interesting similarity in style. Is this a neck fixation?

Kingdom of Days

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Angela Meyer, who blogs at "LiteraryMinded", writes about her thoughts on how to make a successful panel item at a literary festival.  This is mainly done from the POV of the chair of a panel but you can also pick up a lot of tips about how to be a useful member.  Just one thing to be added to the chair's role: don't allow one panelist to dominate.  I've seen too many instances of a panel topic being ruined by one member deciding that that very hour was the best time to spruik their new book, magazine or film.

A few weeks back I stated that Steampunk was the next New, New Thing.  Now Anne Rice, she of the so-so Interview with a Vampire, now says the next big thing will be angels.  I hope not. I wasn't overly impressed with Elizabeth Knox's The Vintner's Luck about ten years ago.  Jessa Crispin linked to this book, and if that's an exmaple of an up-coming trend I'm heading back to westerns. Not that I've got anything against westerns, you understand.

George Dunford seemed rather enthusiastic early on regarding the new Marieke Hardy story being delivered by SMS.  Not so much anymore, possibly due to the fact that Fairfax, the publishers of "The Age", have made the first 5 episodes available online.  He's also not that sure about the delivery.  And Adam Ford is not so sure it's good value or a reasonable "first".

The ABR Favourite Australian Novel Poll

The "Australian Book Review" has decided to conduct a poll to decide the list of Favourite Australian Novels.  Fully aware that various similar polls have been conducted over the years, they especially want to point out that this poll relates to NOVELs, not general books, not poetry collections and not memoirs, biographies and the like.  And it relates to AUSTRALIAN novels. So we might finally get a poll of Australian readers that doesn't feature a certain hobbit travelogue in first place. ABR is asking people to vote for a SINGLE novel in the poll, which seems the best approach. 

I always think these are worthy ideas, so long as someone else organises them.  I would reckon, if you were to ask me, that Winton will probably end up on top with another one or two by him in the top ten.  Beyond that, it's anyone's guess.

Anyway, although I can't see it mentioned on the blog post, entries close on December 15. You can vote via email or you can print off the form and mail or fax it in.  There are prizes - 99 Popular Penguins being the first of them. So vote early, vote...well, once would be best. 

Cross My Heart

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If you're interested in paper and books as physical objects then you need to be acquainted with Ampersand Duck and her weblog.  Funny name, really interesting and informative stuff.  For her latest adventure, Ms Duck contemplates the Museum of Printing in Queanbeyan and how its denizens would have reacted to a recent TV program featuring Stephen Fry and the Gutenberg Press.  Missed that one.  Must follow it up.

Justine Larbalestier is out and about promoting her new novel Liar.  If you can't get to see her (check her weblog for where she'll be next - mainly the US at this time) then you can take in her guest-blog on the "Teenreads" weblog.

And speaking of liars, Spike - the blog of the Meanjin Quarterly - asked the editors of Allen & Unwin, who blog under the Alien Onions banner, what lies they had told about their reading habits. There are the usual Tolstoy and Joyce fibs, but I especially liked the following: "I wrote my essay on The Old Man and the Sea after watching the movie - and I still haven't read the book."  I've also done that. Well, not writing an essay, but fibbing about a book in high school that I hadn't read knowing full well that I had only seen the film adaptation.  Actually, the Onions should read the Hemingway: it's short, very silly and probably gives a good indication of the man's style.  Read it and cross another Nobel prize winner off the list.  Silver linings, etc.

[This is now becoming a habit - I choose the title of these posts early in the week, even before I have anything to write about, and then come across interesting web links that fit the title perfectly.  I can hear the theme music from "The Twilight Zone" playing softly, somewhere...] 

Estelle, of "3000 Books", is getting worried that she's reading novels with similar subjects. To figure it out she set up four novels in a diagram, with connections showing the similarities.  But it's only 4 Estelle.  If it was 10 or 20 then I really would be worried.  Sometimes a reading program will take you down one path for a while, you just have to be sure you don't stay on it for too long.

ABC TV current affairs reporter, Leigh Sales, lists her best book to film adaptations.  Looks like a good list - even though I haven't read all the books - nor have I seen all the films.   No lies here: of the five entries on the list, I've read two of the books and seen four of the films. One entry fits neither of these categories.

Margo Lanagan purrs over the upcoming edition of her novel Tender Morsels - actually it's the Shaun Tan cover art she purrs over.

D.M. Cornish answers a question from a reader regarding how he keeps writing when he doesn't know where to go or what to do.  His comparison of the process being like getting an injection seems a good one.

John Birmingham is working on the redraft of his upcoming novel, After America, and realised that one of the book's narrative arcs had changed so much in the rewriting that he was able to scrap the original's whole opening chapter.  Not one to throw anything away he's published it on his weblog.  As he puts it: "So here you go, something you almost never get, raw copy ripped bleeding from the original manuscript before an editor had even had a chance to get to work on it with a scalpel."

N+1 magazine has identified what it sees as an emerging "new strain within the Anglo-American novel." [Strains now?  Not genres?]  Not sure the same thing is happening in the Australian novel.  Is BBQ a "strain"?


Might be time to get some "John Birmingham for Senator" buttons out and about.  Gamers of the world unite.

Sherryl Clarke offers some writing advice, based on a quote from Australia's latest Nobel Laureate, Dr Elizabeth Blackburn: "Chance favours the prepared mind".  Actually it's pretty good advice for just about anything. Ranks up there with golfer Tom Watson's: "The more I practice the luckier I get".

Lisa Hill recently visited the township of Maldon in Central Victoria as part of the Henry Handel Richardson celebration weekend.

George Dunford has signed up for Marieke Hardy's new publishing venture in association with The Age newspaper.  I'd be interested to see how it turns out, though at a rate of about $5.55 for about 1,400 words, the asking price is a little steep.

Empty Sky


Trawling the backwaters of the world wide web, as I am wont to do, can mean you come across some very intriguing spots.  One such wander recently took me to "The National Book Foundation" and their page of book covers from 60 years of The National Book Awards.  And scolling down I saw this.  I've got a bit of a connection with Bendigo, with a brother and mother-in-law both living there, so I'm paratially aware of the history of the town's name: "The name of Bendigo Creek derives from an employee of the Mount Alexander Run, an ex-sailor or bullock driver who was handy with his fists and nicknamed Bendigo after the Nottingham prize-fighter, William Abednego Thompson, generally known as "Bendigo Thompson". Bendigo Creek was named after him, and the Bendigo Goldfield after the creek." - Wikipedia.  So how did Louis L'Amour come to use the town's name as a book title for one of his many westerns?  Did he ever visit Australia? Or maybe he just dragged it up from the depths of his memories about gold-rushes?  Or maybe he just trawled an atlas looking for likely names.  Old-school surfing? 

Pip Newling has been spying on her fellow commuters.  I've been known to do this as well.

Justine Larbalestier wonders why it is possible to remember such book titles as The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, yet to struggle to recall When You Reach Me.  She's not alone with this.  You only have to hang around the front counter of any reasnable bookstore and listen to the conversations between customers and the sales staff. And I'm not poking fun here.  We all struggle - why do you think I have this weblog anyway?

"Adelaide from Adelaide" took her kids to Spain and gave each of them a book to sketch in on their holidays. My wife and I make it a point of ensuring the kids each have a notebook for their overseas trips.  It allows them to paste in photos, postcards, wrappers, and stickers, and to write up what they've seen and done each day.  Trouble is, my 16-year old demands one of these now. At least I know they'll last.

Andrew Kelley asks: "What's a not-for-profit university press doing publishing the memoir of an underworld figure?"  In case you're not across this - i.e. if you don't live in Melbourne - Andrew is talking about this bloke.  And it's a good point he raises. It's not a book I can see myself rushing out to read.

Jonathan Strahan contemplates his future as an editor of science ficton in Australia.  Even getting to the point of thinking about what it would take to edit a fiction-based magazine again.  I reckon he'd have to give up the day-job and dive in head-first. Big commitment.  One or the other, I'd say.

Angela Meyer is in Ubud, Bali, for the Writers and Readers festival there.  And it looks like a good one to get to at some time.

I Wish I Were Blind

Ampersand Duck savors the pleasures of re-reading, but not too soon.  She keeps a list of books she wants to return to over the years and has a sense in her head of how long the interval between reads needs to be.  There is also the point, that she makes, that the reader you are now is not the reader you were last time you tackled that book.  Which is something I'd agree with but which I am finding less and less applicable as I move further into middle-age.

Two weeks ago my post in this category was titled "You Can Look (But You'd Better Not Touch)" and reading Scott Westerfeld's blog today I realised I should have used that title for this post instead.  Ah, well, this song-title will have to suffice.

John Birminghan's gone and done himself some damage, making typing difficult and painful.  Needing to churn the words out he has invested in "MacSpeech Dictate", some Apple software that transcribed speech into written text.  Easy, right?  Well, no actually.  John struggled early to come to grips with the software but seems to have got the hang of it now.  As we used to say in the software trade - and as he readily admits he should have done - RTFM.  And yet I never seem to do that.

Lisa Hill is getting into Gerald Murnane, in particular The Plains and Inland. I haven't read Inland but The Plains is one of the strangest, more interesting short novels published in Australia.  I state in the comments section that it has some sf elements, Lisa contends that Murnane is more about intellectual paradoxes.  I'll just have to go back and re-read it.  And isn't that what all these discussions are about?

Lost in the Flood

Sarah Weinman, of the "Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind" weblog, reports that Maxim Jakubowski who used to run the Murder One bookstore in the heart of London's bookshop district, has taken on the role of running a new crime fiction publishing imprint "maXcrime".  First book to be published under that label will be Hit by Tara Moss. 

You might remember that I was rabbitting on about "steampunk" a few weeks back, extolling its virtues as the next big thing.  In case you still didn't understand what that genre was all about then "The Clockwork Century" weblog provides a definition: "Steampunk is a style (of books, clothes, video games, movies, etc.) that draws its inspiration from old science fiction stories. By 'old' I mean Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley, and their ilk. Steampunk art is often (but not strictly always) indicative of a place and/or time wherein steam is the dominant form of high technology. Or at least it usually looks like it is."  There is more besides.

Lisa Hill really gets into Passarola Rising by Azhar Abidi on her weblog, calling it "wonderfully, fabulously imaginative" and "a little gem".  It must be nearly three years ago that I said here that I needed to read this book.

Estelle, of "3000 Books", continues her look at the other side of publishing with her interview with Belinda Leon at Oxford University Press.  Best line: "I'm a huge book nerd. I love reading, and I love books. All about them, the smell, the feel, opening a new one fresh from the store, opening an old one from a second hand store and finding someone's writing in it. There was also something about the process of a book that seemed so mysterious. How do you get from someone tapping away at a screen and turn it into a book? Do authors write in Word? is there a special program they need to use to make a book? HOW DOES IT WORK?"

It appears rather quiet on the Australian litblog front this past week.  Maybe the writers are finishing off their next books, the young at heart are getting over the after-effects of the Melbourne Writers Festival, and the others are hanging out for the end of the footy season.  The grand final of the Australian Football League, by the way, looks like being a classic on Saturday: the two best teams of the year will fight it out, one is seeking redemption for a poor end to 2008, the other is seeking its first premiership in 43 years, and the day looks likely to be cold and wet and thundery with maybe even some hail thrown in for good measure.  All the ingredients for a BBQ.  And, yes, I will be at one - just not wearing the Hawaiian shirt this year.

You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)

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The Alien Onions remember where they were when the shock of the new was still something to savour. 

Genevieve has been tinkering with the look of her weblog.  Which I think is a good idea for all of us every few years or so.

We've all groaned aloud upon reading some terrible prose in a multi-billion-selling mega-blockbuster from some author or other - it's hard to forget Thomas Harris's trouser trout, try as I might (see Hannibal chapter 20) - and now that Dan Brown's latest novel is out and about, Brian Joseph Davis of "The Globe and Mail" has decided to edit the first two chapters of his previous novel - you know, the church one - to show the author how it should be done. Davis might have found Brown's formula: "Maybe using the adverb 'slowly' seven times in your first 10 pages is the secret to good writing." 

Kerryn Goldsworthy gives her rules for writing reviews, covering the reviewer's responsibilities to the author, the reader, the literary editor and to the reviewer herself. It's a good set to work with. 

In an interesting look at the underside of the Australian publishing industry Estelle, of "3000 Books", interviews Stephanie Stepan who is an intern in the publicity department of Text Publishing.

Getting in early, in fact very early, Lisa Hill has predicted The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy as the winner of the 2010 Miles Franklin Award.

This Is Your Land

The Alien Onions are having trouble resisting the urge to go out and buy new editions of books they already own, purely because of the new edition bookcovers.  This is not normally a problem for me other than for various editions of The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke by C.J. Dennis.  Given that the bulk of the editions of that book I'm missing date from the 1910s and 1920s and don't have jackets anyway, I'm not overly worried that I'll be swayed by the artwork. I just buy them because, well, I want them. 

kimbofo has decided to, maybe, go on a D'Arcy Niland reading binge over the next month.  She recently bought 4 Niland novels which is a bit more impressive than it sounds: Kim is based in the UK and these books have been out of print for ages.  Her version of The Big Smoke (great Australian title that) looks like it might well be the 1978 Australian penguin edition, which was the book's most recent printing.  Interesting to see paperbacks like this migrating so far.

Jonathan Strahan has been using a Sony Reader for about a year and is generally happy with it. He has some interesting comments on the whole process of e-book reader use versus print.

Judith Ridge, of the "Misrule" weblog, isn't too happy with some comments made recently by Ramona Koval on ABC Radio Nationals' "The Book Show", about children's book authors.

Out in the Street

James Bradley is rather pleased to see that Steven Amsterdam's novel Things We Didn't See Coming has won the Age Book of the Year Award and remembers doing something similar with his novel The Deep Field.

And Stephanie Campisi sees some similarities between Amsterdam's cover and one used for Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveller.

The "Overland literary journal" weblog points out that a recent "Australian" newspaper article by Carmela Baranowska was originally published in their journal, reprinted with permission but with no acknowledgement. Overland is a not-or-profit journal and really does need these things noted. 

And the Overland blog is aiming to be all-poetry all-the-time during the 2009 Overland Poetry Festival, as poetry totally takes over their weblog: 4-13 September.

"Ripping Ozzie Reads" weblog is starting a series of posts from their author contributors about First Book Sales and then, later, on Career Planning.  First off the rank is Rowena Cory Daniells's piece about how her first book, Capped!, was written and plucked out of the slushpile by Scolastic.

"The Guardian" newspaper, obviously troubled by the books on the Man Booker longlist, decided to run its own poll of its readers and have now come up with a shortlist of 6.  Australia's M.J. Hyland made the cut, though you have to be aware that this list only allows for books that are currently available in the UK.  Cheryl Morgan notes that only 794 people nominated in the poll and makes the point that having a free vote allows for vote-stacking. 

Jeff VanderMeer has a book lined up to launch at next year's Worldcon here in Melbourne.  Appropriately it is an anthology of sf stories with Australian links. 

A little while back I mentioned that I had been interviewed by George Dunford for a piece he was writing for The Big Issue.  That edition has now come and gone and George has now made the full piece available on his weblog.

Two Hearts

Sophie Cunningham of the "Meanjin" blog and Estelle of "3000 Books" were both at the Aireys Inlet Festival of Words and seemed to have a good time.  Sophie's central thought about the festival rings true: "...I sold a lot of copies of my book and was struck, once again, about how much more effective these small festivals are at selling books, and by how many of the audience had read the authors appearing over the weekend, in preparation for hearing them."

The Melbourne Writers' Festival blog has kicked off with intros by Estelle of "3000 Books", Frenchelbow, Louise (Festival Administrator), Nina (Development Manager), Helenka (Festival Manager), and Jane (Volunteer Co-ordinator).  I wonder what the difference is between a Manager and an Administrator.

This isn't Australian but Australian writers certainly need to know about it, and rejoice at the news.   [Thanks to Lee Goldberg for the link.] 

I normally follow a whole raft of weblogs - Australian and international - using the RSS reader Bloglines.  Somehow or other, over the past month, Justine Larbalestier's weblog has stopped appearing, so I've missed a lot of the discussions about her latest book and the problems associated with the US edition cover.  In a nutshell, Larbalestier's novel Liar features a protagonist "Micah [who] is black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short."  The proposed US cover featured a white girl with long straight hair.  The author was rather annoyed with that decision and said so loudly.  Now it appears that the US publishers have relented and Larbalestier is very pleased with the result.


Are litblogs going to replace book review pages in the mainstream media?  I very much doubt it.  Jeff, on the "Overland" blog, ponders that very point.  He does make a statement - "A review in a Saturday paper would traditionally reach even the non-bookish -- or, at very least, alert them to the existence of a particular title." - which I'd disagree with, but it's hardly fair pick out one sentence and criticise that.  Especially as he later says: "If we care about writing, we need to find ways to make literature relevant to the world around us, to link the books we review to the concerns of others, and to build the litblogging readership into something more general."  Which I do agree with.

Sophie Cunningham, editor of "Meanjin", went along to the Byron Bay Writers' festival at the start of August and writes of what she found there.

In a post that is probably of more interest to bloggers than readers, Ariel, on her "Jabberwocky" weblog, asks "Do good blog posts come in small packages?"  Some of her Gen Y friends contend that they won't read a long post no matter what it's about.  As she says: "I don't know if I agree that form necessarily dictates content. It's true that it's nicer and easier to read long pieces in print; but one of the huge benefits of new technology is that it provides a forum for intelligent discussion and exploration of all kinds of topics, without the writer needing funding to create a platform for communication, or to place their story with the right editor at the right time, with the right angle and style for the chosen publication."  Form only dictates content when the form enforces space restrictions.  Twitter posts that are restricted to 140 characters are, by necessity, simplistic.  Direct and to the point, yes, but it's hard to mount an argument about a topic or alert people to detailed lists in only 140 characters.  Some URLs run to more than that.  Must write on this more at a later time.

Estelle, of the "3000 Books" weblog is off to the Aireys Inlet Festival of Words this weekend and will then be blogging the Melbourne Writers' Festival on its weblog.  Be nice to have that energy again.

Outlaw Pete

Mark Day, journo with "The Australian", (in fact, nearly a 50-year veteran according to his blog) gets stuck into the teenagers of today for what appears to be no apparent reason - someone on a skateboard cut him off perhaps.  Lili Wilkinson didn't take too kindly to his sentiments and wrote and told him so.  Day was always asking for it with statements like: " the face of evidence that young people are not reading."  Which face is that Mark?

Sheryl Clark went along to the Crime and Justice Festival held in Abbotsford in July. She was at the same Stuart McBride session (the interview with Lucy Sussex) as myself.  Sheryl thought some of Lucy's questions were disjointed.  The problem was that McBride was very slow to start off and seemed to jump around a bit - I actually whispered that to my wife at the time.  Once he settled down to a narrative style rather than static answers the interview seemed to flow pretty well. It's a common problem.

Angela Savage was also at the festival, but in a moderator capacity.  I'm sorry I missed the Disher panels, but real life, in the form of my son's basketball, intervened.

Kim Wilkins is rather upset at a note in "The Australian" which disparaged an Agent and an Author.  I remember reading the comment at the time and thinking it seemed a little funny.  I couldn't understand why an agent would say that about their author.  Anyway, Wilkins has the full story plus quotes.

"Adelaide from Adelaide" is in Edinburgh with her children and pondering the problems of being a writer and a mother.  I suspect the answer lies in treating the writing like a job: you leave the home behind in the morning and return in the evening.  The intervening hours are just plain "work", boredom and all.

Instances of Matilda #5

Tougher Than the Rest


"Lorelei V" strikes a rather Pre-Raphaelite pose on her weblog photo, which is a touch different from the cover of the new Nick Cave novel from Text Publishing.  She interviews Caro Cooper at the publishing house to find out all about it.  

Abbey's Bookshop lets us in on some of the books we can expect to see in the shops this coming end-of-year festival thingey - there are certain "C" words that may not be spoken this early in the year.

Pavlov's Cat gets a haircut ahead of the launch of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature.  (Oh, god, is that twitter trying to sneak in the back door?) Which reminds me I must get out and buy myself a copy. It's always fun playing "But they forgot about..."

Judith Ridge, of the "Misrule" weblog, travelled to the UK recently for a Diana Wynne Jones conference, delivered a paper and got a good write-up in "The Guardian".  The paper's reporter described Judith as her "favourite speaker of the weekend". 

I've watched Test cricket at Lord's but I've never had my name featured on a billboard like the "Alien Onion" crew.

Instances of Matilda #4


Mary Shelly

With its shocking theme of father-daughter incest, Mary Shelley's publisher--her father, known for his own subversive books--not only refused to publish Mathilda, he refused to return her only copy of the manuscript, and the work was never published in her lifetime.

His suppression of this passionate novella is perhaps understandable--unlike her first book, Frankenstein, written a year earlier, Mathilda uses fantasy to study a far more personal reality. It tells the story of a young woman whose mother died in her childbirth--just as Shelly's own mother died after hers--and whose relationship with her bereaved father becomes sexually charged as he conflates her with his lost wife, while she becomes involved with a handsome poet. Yet, despite characters clearly based on herself, her father, and her husband, the narrator's emotional and relentlessly self-examining voice lifts the story beyond autobiographical resonance into something more transcendent: a driven tale of a brave woman's search for love, atonement, and redemption.

It took more than a century before the manuscript Mary Shelley gave her father was rediscovered. It is published here as a stand-alone volume for the first time.

From Melville House Publishing.

[Okay, it's not the exact spelling but...]

Hungry Heart

Is it just me or are authors getting young and younger these days?  Twenty, twenty-one I can understand, but 12?

Jonathan Strahan has been busy editing anthologies and single-author collections this year and gives a run-down on his first half of 2009.

Pavlov's Cat revisits the 2009 Miles Franklin Award shortlist and lists the novels by women that didn't even make the longlist.  It is a surprisingly good selection, and would have made a surprisingly good shortlist.

If you thought that literary hoaxs and cons were a relatively modern invention then you would be unaware of the story of convict George Barrington.  In "The Age" Simon Caterson provides just enough detail about The Celebrated Barrington: A Spurious Author, the Book Trade, and Botany Bay by Nathan Garvey to make it a must-read.

Salt Publishing explains the "10 Ways to Take a Bad Author Photo".  More big hats I say.

shallow_end.jpg headlong.jpg

The Big Muddy

Jessa Crispin is "on the hunt" for fabulous fiction for Summer Reading and, for the "NPR" website, choses Joan London's novel The Good Parents.

As "The Australian" discovers writing a book is just the first step; you then have to find a publisher which may well be the hardest part. "Vivienne Kelly wrote four unpublished manuscripts before her debut novel, Cooee, was published by Scribe last year."

Judith Ridge had a very busy month of May; two writers' festivals resulting in a bad cold will do that.

Genevieve Tucker has all the links you could possibly want regarding the recent Emerging Writers'Festival. 

Jennifer Fallon lists 10 things a writer should never blog about.

Tony Park went along to the Literati writers' event on the Gold Coast and had a great time, even if his mate and fellow writer, Peter Watt, was stuck at home surrounded by floodwaters.

I know that Mark Twain toured Australia in the 1890s, that he went along to the Melbourne Cup and wowed all and sundry, but I didn't know that he'd actually visited Horsham.   I have a nephew living there.

Roll of the Dice

Garry Disher is touring the US promoting his new novel Blood Moon and, while in California, met up with Lee Goldberg - author of the Monk TV- tie-ins - who got something of a pleasant surprise when he took his visitor out to dinner.

The long-awaited release of the film adaptation of Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee is almost upon us, and in the "Australian Book Review" weblog Peter Rose introduces a review of the film, by Brian McFarlane,  which will appear in the June 1 edition of ABR.

 Australian sf/fantasy/horror writer Richard Harland looks to be on the verge of making it big with his new novel Worldshaker, and has put together a very comprehensive set of webpages detailing all he has learnt about the writing and publishng business.  As he introduces them: "These tips are for genre writers not literary writers, for storytellers not writers of semi-autobiographical memoirs."  But there is bound to be something for everyone here.

Angela Meyer attended the Emerging Writers' Festival in Melbourne recently and reports on what she found there.

Sally Warhaft, the editor of "The Monthly" magazine resigned recently, and now a new editor has been appointed: he's 23. Pavlov's Cat thinks he's going to struggle.

The "Readings" weblog provides us with a link to Richard Flanagan's closing speech at the Sydney Writers' Festival.

The Long Goodbye

There's a new suburb to be built on the banks of the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne and writer Michael McGirr wants it named after the poet John Shaw Neilson, who lived in the area for many years. Sounds like a plan to me.

Anson Cameron was so taken by the theft of Picasso's Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria in the mid-1980s that he decided to write a novel about it, and quickly discovered that "the rumours were more valuable to me than the truth."

A while ago it was a musical version of Thorn Birds, and now it's Picnic at Hanging Rock getting the treatment. I'm thinking they can use "Anything Can Happen" by the Finn Brothers, or "The Great Gig in the Sky" by Pink Floyd, or maybe even "Waiting for the UFO's" by Graham Parker.

Peter Carey is moving publishers. He stayed with the University of Queensland Press from The Fat Man in History in 1974 until True History of the Kelly Gang in 2000. "When Carol Davidson, who was publicity director and then publisher at UQP, became sales and international publishing director at Random House Australia in 2003, Carey went with her. " Davidson has now left Random House and Carey has decided to move to Penguin's Hamish Hamilton list where he joins such authors as Tim Winton and Robert Drewe.

Angela Meyer, of the "LiteraryMinded" weblog, makes a guest appearance on the "Flashlight Worthy" weblog and lists the Australian fiction that has shaped her literary tastes.

Michael C has been reappraising grunge fiction over on his weblog "Eurhythmania". That's such works as Christos Tsiolkas' Loaded, Andrew McGahan's Praise, and Justine Ettler's The River Ophelia.

Leap of Faith

Joshua Gans is economics professor at the Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne, and the author of Parentonomics: An Economist Dad Looks at Parenting. Marshal Zeringue, on the "Writers Read" website, asked him what he was currently reading.

"The Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper is reporting that Peter Carey is the current bookies' favourite for the 2009 Man Booker International Prize. Carey is reported to be at 6/1, ahead of Czech author Arnot Lustig at 7/1 and India's V.S. Naipaul at 8/1.

Jenny Sinclair can't seem to walk around Melbourne without getting fictional flashbacks.

D.M. Cornish has finished the first draft of the third book of his Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy and is now waiting for his editor's comments and the start of the revision process. And he's actually looking forward to it.

On the "Inside Story" website Shane Maloney looks back at the career of Australian crime writer Peter Corris and his fictional detective Cliff Hardy.

Hal G.P. Colebatch, in "American Spectator" magazine, attempts to paint climate change into a corner by stating that the recent Victorian bushfires had "Nothing to do with climate change, only stupid, ignorant, meddling, and in the event homicidal, Greens and politically-correct officialdom." He backs up this claim by quoting poetry from Will Ogilvie and John O'Brien. I only mention this because of the poetry.

Surprise, Surprise

The lineup of participating authors for the 2009 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature (April 27 - May 3, 2009) to be held in New York, has been announced. Main Australian interest centres on Shaun Tan and Nam Le. The second of these has his nationality listed as "Vietnam/U.K.", yet his associated biography says: "Nam Le was born in Vietnam and raised in Australia." Neither the UK, nor any of its constituent countries, is mentioned anywhere in his biographical entry. The Ruddster might be Barak Obama's new BFF, but it seems that Australia is still too far away to be comprehensible.

Last year James Bradley was interviewed by an Italian research student who was writing her thesis on the topic "The Photographic Act in Contemporary Australian Fiction". That paper has now been completed, but James decided it wouldn't be available in English for a while, if ever, and so has published some extracts.

A new Australian literary prize has been announced. The John Button prize has been named in honour of the late Senator and Industry Minister and "awards $20,000 to the best piece of non-fiction writing on politics or public policy in the previous 12 months." The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is patron of the prize and the judging panel consists of: Bob Carr, Kerry O'Brien, Morag Fraser (Chair), Judith Brett, and J.M. Coetzee.

Angela Meyer, of the "LiteraryMinded" weblog, has been working on a novel manuscript for the past couple of years and it seems to be coming together at last. She writes about the manuscript's history and the major changes she's made to it just recently. The idea of physically cutting the manuscript up into scenes and laying them out on the floor in various combinations and sortings to check the balance is a good one. People will now tell me this techniques has
been around since Adam was a lad.

Jonathan Crossfield runs the "Copy Write" weblog and has compiled a list of the top 50 writing blogs in Australia. These are weblogs which deal with the actual act of writing rather than just reporting on publishing and books. Lots of interesting new blogs to check out here.

Thorn Birds as a musical? Seems so. Not sure why Colleen McCullough thought that Rachel Ward couldn't act. Ward certainly can now.

The New Timer

Susan Wyndham of "The Sydney Morning Herald"'s "Entertainment" weblog is a judge of this year's Barbara Jefferis Award and noticed the rather bleak nature of many of the entries.

If you've ever wondered what this whole sf genre is all about, then Jonathan Strahan may be able to provide some guidance. He's going to be commenting each week about one classic sf story on the "Locus" magazine weblog. The list of 43 stories is based on the magazine's "1999 All-Time Readers Poll Short Story List", and covers the years 1940-1985; I did say these were classics. It's a tad top heavy with Ellison stories, and the list is very US centric: the only Australian connection I can find is "The Game of Rat and Dragon" by Cordwainer Smith from 1955. I wrote about that author here a while back. Nevertheless it looks like being worth watching. Garth Nix thinks Jonathan should anthologise the whole set. Adding in his comments as introductions to each story would also be a good idea.

Mike Glyer on "File 770" announces that Bruce Gillespie won the Best Fan Writer category of the 2009 Fanzine Activity Achievement (FAAN) Awards. Bruce was Fan Guest of Honour at the 1999 Worldcon (Aussiecon 3) and has been publishing since the 1960s. You can read back issues of "Steam Engine Time" and "SF Commentary" on the "" website.

Miriam Burstein, "The Little Professor", has been reading Kisses of the Enemy by Rodney Hall.

Pavlov's Cat attended the book launch of Tracy Crisp's novel Black Dust Dancing, and writes of what she saw there - in words and pictures. Tracy is the blogger at "adelaide from adelaide".

The bloggers at "Alien Onion" have noted that the Melbourne Writer's Festival isn't interested in The Great Australian Novel right now; they want The Great Australian Text Message, or Gr8 Oz Txt Msg if you prefer.

Angela Meyer and Gerard Elson have a look at the print and film versions of Watchmen on Angela's "LiteraryMinded" weblog.

Brothers in Arms

Is it just me or...

bolanor.jpg haighg.jpg

Roberto Bolano and Gideon Haigh

Shut Out the Light

Thirdcat is back in Adelaide and suffering a form of performance anxiety. And then she posts a link to the review.
Bravery indeed. But it all seems to have worked out well.

SF writer John Scalzi proposes a statute of limitations on spoilers, citing the recent film version of Watchmen as an example. It's 23 years old now and he reckons he should be able to say what he likes about it.

Sarsaparilla, one of the better Australian literature plus weblogs going around (bastards!), dropped off the internet radar late last year but has now been resurrected in lite form prior to a new launch sometime soon.

It's not Australian but it is about Shakespeare so I guess that overrides everything else. Charlotte Higgins, of "The Guardian", is not convinced the newly discovered portrait of Shakespeare is anything of the sort. I tend to agree. When I saw it on the television news a day or two back and heard that it was supposed to represent Bill only 6 years before his death, that is at age 46, I just about choked on my glass of red.

Hoaxes are always good fun, so long as you aren't the "hoaxee". ABC News in the USA lists its 19 famous literary hoaxes. Keep an eye peeled for Forbidden Love by Norma Khouri. Which all goes well with "Jennifer Byrne Presents: Literary Hoaxes" which aired on ABC Television (Australia) this week.

If you've ever wondered if mining your own family for material is the right and proper thing to do, then I suggest you don't read this. Kim Forrester has the rest of the relevant links fully covered.

The 2009 Tournament of Books is running in the US and the latest match-up is The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga vs Harry, Revised by Mark Sarvas. I mention this because Adiga is now being described as Indian/Australian and Sarvas was here for last year's Melbourne Writers' Festival. And because I think the whole idea rather amusing.

Life Itself

Judith Ridge announces another loss in the world of Australian children's literature with the passing of children's book illustrator Kilmeny Niland - a daughter of Ruth Park and D'Arcy Niland.

Sean Williams is appearing at the Adelaide Fringe festival next week, discussing authors who have inspired him.

Flinders University has announced a new web-based literary journal, "Transnational Literature", which has an impressive advisory board. The first issue is dated November 2008.

James Bradley is waiting for a time traveller. A bit to the left James.

If anyone takes my upcoming hint and mentions Garry Disher's Wyatt novels to the Hard Case Crime publishers in the US, I would be: a) pleased the books have found a new home, and b) quite happy to have my name applied to a victim in any future volume in the series. It's the least I can do.

And in a case of "I see you watching me watching you", Margo Lanagan has mentioned my "Margo Lanagan Watch #2" post of last week on her weblog, as well as the note I sent to the Moleskinerie blog about her notebook post from her time as resident blogger at the State Library of Victoria. Now, if Margo mentions this post, my head can safely implode, and I might get some sleep.


Judith Ridge remembers Sandy Campbell, "One of the great champions of Australian children's books and their readers".

The Man Booker Prize admininstration people are making some rule changes for submissions. "For clarity, former winners get free entry, former shortlisted authors now have to have been shortlisted within the past five years." This five years had previously been ten.

Sean Williams writes about a story he's been toying with since 1994. It's now to be published as a novel and he has also posted an excerpt. No title as yet, but he does say that the original, Widow of Opportunity, has been discarded.

Jonathan Strahan explains what it's like to be nominated for a major literary award, in this case a Hugo in 2008.

"Adelaide from Adelaide" - cos she's now in Abu Dhabi - posts about "plotting": writing not crime.

Marg, from the "Reading Adventures" weblog, went along to the first Australian Romance Readers Convention and writes about what she found there.

Jennifer Fallon spent a night in hospital hooked up to all sorts of equipment, got little sleep and felt like one of the Borg.

This isn't Australian and doesn't involve any Australian personnel yet, and probably won't - unless they cast Miranda Otto in the lead role - but it does concern a book that I have previously stated is probably as close to my favourite as any other I can think of. The word is that the BBC is in talks to make The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles into a four-hour television mini-series. I've never seen the Pinter-scripted film with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep, and I'm not sure I'd want to watch this either. I'm funny like that.

Streets of Fire

Justine Ferrari, in "The Australian" newspaper, reports that "A Children's laureate to champion reading among kids will be appointed from next year under a program established by an alliance of authors, teachers, librarians, publishers, booksellers and arts administrators." The newly formed Australian Children's Literature Alliance will be running the initiative.

Jonathan Strahan, Perth-based editor and sf anthologist, is interviewed by "Locus" magazine. "The challenges that arise while editing an unthemed anthology are, essentially, the same as those that arise while editing a themed book. However, there are one or two differences. It can be harder to give writers a clear idea of the kind of book you're hoping to create because there isn't a simple idea or theme to point them towards. Writers will ask what sort of story you're looking for, and it's important to be able to give them a useful answer, but framing that answer can be a challenge. I'm aiming for variety, for flexibility of form with Eclipse, but I'm also focusing on stories with more traditional narrative structures, with character, plot and some kind of clear link to a sense of 'genre'. Probably the most unexpected challenge, though, is to assemble a series of books that have a similar character, that are unmistakably related to one another and will reward readers who follow the series equally. I'm still working hard on that."

Tracey Rolfe recently attended a poetry reading in Yarraville (A suburb of Melbourne) and encountered heckling. Not of her, of the poet.

Estelle, from the "3000 Books" weblog, volunteered to help out at the Writers at the Convent festival, and reports on what she found there. "My volunteer shift was short and painless. Actually, it was frighteningly enjoyable. Even though historical fiction is not my usual literary fare, I was entertained by Jenny Pattrick, Claire Thomas and Anthony Neill's discussion entitled Plundering the Past. The way Thomas described the evolution of a single fact -- the crushed form of lapis lazuli was used in Renaissance-era Venice to create ultramarine pigment -- into her novel, Fugitive Blue, put me in mind of a bloodhound's singular focus. Her delight in the 'perverse integrity' of deliberate, minute research was palpable in her and the other authors' stories. I was beginning to see how easy it would be to get sucked into chasing history

Angela Meyer, on the "LiteraryMinded" weblog, has started what-I-hope is a series of simultaneous film and book
reviews. The first features Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Great idea.

Max Barry states that he's probably written 1.5 million words since he published his novel Company. Trouble is nothing has gelled as yet. But, now he says "I am going to do something. I know what the something is. It will be good. And it will be in March."

Instances of Matilda #3


Matilda Bookshop board, Stirling, SA

Working on the Highway

On his weblog "Eurthythamia", Michael C. publishes the final version of a sub-chapter cut from his PhD thesis. The essay is titled "Three Dollars and Economic Times, Subtopia as Grunge Bildunsroman". The title refers to the novels Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman, and Subtopia by Andrew McCann.

Margo Lanagan has been blogging over at the State Library of Victoria site as part of the Reading Victoria program. A recent post details her version of "Ten things I know about writing". I specifically like number 10: "You should always be trying to write a story that's slightly bigger than your own head." Same thing could apply to blogging. More commentary, maybe.

Susan Wyndham, on the "Entertainment" blog attached to "The Sydney Morning Herald" reports that "Frank Moorhouse has been appointed as the first CAL [Copyright Agency Limited] writer in residence at the University of Technology Sydney." While there he will be working on the third volume of his Palais des Nations trilogy (following Grand Days and Dark Palace). No title on the new novel as yet.

Susan Johnson uses the resurgence of interest in Richard Yates to post: "As any regular reader of this blog will know, part of this blog's raison d'être is to give an unvarnished view of the writer's life. I have long argued that the brilliant careers of, say, a Peter Carey or a John Updike are exceptions to the rule, and that the careers of most writers of literary fiction have more in common with Yates...A literary life cannot be measured by the success of a single book." Or failure for that matter. [Yates wrote the novel Revolutonary Road which was recently adapted for the screen by Justin Haythe, directed by Sam Mendes, and featured Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.]

An editor on the "Alien Onions" weblog remembers a book from their childhood, Dragon's Breath by Michael Dugan, illustrated by Allen Hicks. It concerns a girl who befriends a dragon who later saves the girl's home town from bushfires. Sounds both appropriate and comforting at this time.

Dry Lightning

Terra Incognita is an Australian website that features podcasts of Australian sf writers reading their own short stories. It presents a new story every month, and you can download the files, listen online, or access them via iTunes. This month's story is "The Slimelight, and How to Step Into It" by Robert Hood.

Sean Williams has a few stories and a novel coming out in 2009. He looks like he's been busy.

The Sydney Writers' Festival has been going from strength to strength over the past few years under the stewardship of director Wendy Were. She is due to have her first child a month before this year's festival and is aiming to take a year off work. Needless to say SWF doesn't want to lose her and has agreed to her proposal. Now, according to "The Sydney Morning Herald" the festival board has appointed Chip Rolley to fill in for the year. The newspaper report details his background.

D.M. Cornish has posted some pages which may appear in the appendices of the third book in his Monster-Blood Tattoo fantasy series. It's just a pity we have to wait till May 2010 for publication date.

Pavlov's Cat posts a photo of her to-be-read file. Given she is a book reviewer for a major Australian newspaper I'm not sure if this is the stuff she has for review or just the stuff she wants to get to for herself.

Judith Ridge bemoans the fact that there aren't many children's and youth bloggers in Australia, comparing the situation to the USA where there are lots. She introduces Persnickety Snark from South Australia, and We Heart Books. This also elicits the mention of the Look at that Book weblog in the comments. To which we can also add The Book Chook. Seems like Judith has started something.

Speaking of new weblogs, James Bradley (author of Wrack, The Deep Field and The Resurrectionist which I reviewed here) has started his own weblog with the title City of Tongues. One to keep an eye on.

Prove It All Night

"The Guardian", not to be outdone by "The Telegraph"'s 100 novels everyone should read (see last week on this weblog), lists 1000 novels you must read. [That's one book a week for twenty years!] True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey is listed under the Crime section and his novel Oscar and Lucinda appears under novels about Love, as do The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard and Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson. Illywhacker by Carey can be found under the Comedy heading; The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead and The Tree of Man by Patrick White under Family & Self; and Remembering Babylon by David Malouf under State of the Nation. There are probably a couple more sections to come but I'm finding this extended website rather confusing.

Simon Caterson looks at some small Melbourne publishing houses for "The Age".

Ampersand Duck gets a rollicking from her father for not posting on her weblog often enough. I'm lucky in that regard as most of my family doesn't even know this blog exists.

M.J. Hyland has started a new website/weblog devoted to her upcoming novel, This is How. You'll remember Hyland as she was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2006 for her second novel Carry Me Down. In "the Manchester Review" you can read an essay by M.J. Hyland titled "Selling Fakes".

"The Complete Review" weblog informs us that Penguin US is releasing two new editions of Patrick White novels: Voss and The Vivisector. The first of these comes with an introduction from Tom Keneally, and the second with one from J.M. Coetzee. And the weblog is correct: the new cover for The Vivisector is about the worst I've ever seen. Reminds me of the torture scene at the end of the film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.

Angel Eyes

Paul Morgan, author of Turner's Paintbox, The Pelagius Book and The Art of Richard Hughes, introduces his Literary Space - or where he does his main writing - on the "LiteraryMinded" weblog.

Enigma: A Magical Mystery by Graeme Base has been nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best Juvenile category. These "are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America. They honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film and theatre published or produced in the past year." [Thanks to Wikipedia for that.]

"The Telegraph" newspaper from the UK lists 100 novels everyone should read. The list includes Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey as the only Australian entry. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee is also listed, but let's not get into that argument again.

Sometimes taking a punt works out well for a publisher. Michael Heywood, of Text Publishing, negotiated publishing rights to Barak Obama's two books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, two years ago. Who's smiling now?

Soul Driver

Kathleen Noon, in the "Courier-Mail" takes up the idea of an Australian Poet Laureate, citing the fact that Britain, USA, Canada and New Zealand all have such a position, but that we do not. I threw together some thoughts on this topic back in the middle of 2006.

Small independent publishers can find a useful niche market, as this piece, by Victoria Laurie in "The Australian", about indigenous publisher Magabala, shows.

Australian novelist, K.A. Bedford, has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick award for his novel Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait - great title. This award "was conceived by Thomas M. Disch to honor the memory of Philip K. Dick by rewarding the best paperback original SF book of the year (since so much of Philip K. Dick's work was published in that format)." It has been awarded since 1983.

Pavlov's Cat has a look at the ratio of male to female contributors in a number of Australian literary magazines, and finds Quadrant especially remiss.

On the AustCrimeFiction weblog, Karen lists the television crime programs that are either on their way for 2009, or expected to be screened in the UK this year. Of particular interest is "Three Acts of Murder (ABC): Telemovie based on the case of a serial killer who copied a 'perfect murder' he read about in a novel by Bony creator Arthur Upfield." This was the murder mentioned in this reprint.

I'm still not sure if we can claim The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga as an Australian novel, but the book is one of the contenders in the 2009 Tournament of Books.

D.M. Cornish has made the Sf and Fantasy shortlist for the Cybils Award 2008 - these are subtitled "the children's and young adult bloggers' literary awards".

Brilliant Disguise

My wife often looks at the piles of books all round the house and wonders - in a vociferant tone - why we don't actually get rid of some of them. Now, thanks to Peter Robins I have the answer.

Jonathan Strahan's anthology The Best SF and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 3 includes stories by Margo Lanagan and Greg Egan.

Australian authors Pamela Freeman and Sean Williams, back in December 2008, appeared on a Bookgeeks SF and Fantasy panel answering a few questions inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law of Prediction: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".

In "The Guardian", Eloise Millar writes about Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead, and states: "Christina Stead's tale of high society and low morals is difficult to recommend, but underlines the variety of Virago Modern Classics". According to "The Courier-Mail", there actually are differences between all-male book clubs, and the other, mostly-female ones. Who knew?

YellowMonkey, "Yellow" to his mates, runs his own cricket blog and keeps an eye peeled for sloppy cricket writing. He was particularly annoyed by Miller's Luck by Roland Perry.

The Popular Penguin series seems to have done very well here in Australia, enough to convince sceptical Penguin executives in the UK to launch the idea there later in 2009. Three penguins for the price of a one normal trade paperback? Bit of a no-brainer I would have thought.

Max Barry sold the film rights to his novel Jennifer Government to Warner Bros. for Steve Soderbergh and George Clooney. The deal didn't work out. But that wasn't why he felt compelled to write an open letter to the film production company stating that the next time they come calling some of the clauses in the contract will be firmly struck out.

Long Time Comin'

David Francis, author of Stray Dog Winter, is a guest blogger on PowellsBooks.Blog.

Readings Bookshop has compiled a list of Australian Fiction titles published during 2008. It's pretty good, even if it does leave out most genre titles, and even some that we have reviewed here.

Garth Nix is the first confirmed guest of honor for the 2009 World Fantasy Convention to be held in San Jose, California. This follows the announcement of Jenny Blackford from Melbourne as one of the World Fantasy Award jury of judges.

Katherine Howell, author of the Davitt Award winning novel Frantic, is a guest blogger on the UK crime weblog "It's a Crime (Or a Mystery...)".

According to Wikipedia: "The Martin Beck Award is an award given by the Swedish Crime Writers' Academy
(Svenska Deckarakademin) for the best crime novel in translation." Text Publishing have announced that Peter Temple's novel, The Broken Shore, has been shortlisted for the 2008 award.

SF Rears Its Ugly Head

In October 2007 I made a note, when Doris Lessing was announced as the 2007 Nobel Literature laureate, that she was the second science fiction writer to be so honoured. Kerryn Goldsworthy took up the challenge and asked who the first one might have been; William Golding, I replied. And now, according to David Langford's Ansible we might just have a third.

J.M.G. Le Clézio, this year's Nobel Prize for Literature winner, has long had an Encyclopedia of SF entry on the strength of Les géants (1973), set in 'a nightmare shopping complex in a futuristic city.'

Wreck on the Highway

Does the number of small literary magazines being published give an indication of the literacy rates of the general population? That's a question that Fiona Gruber seeks to answer in an essay in "The Australian".

Susan Johnson went along to see Geraldine Brooks talking about her latest novel, People of the Book, and recalled working with Brooks on the Good Weekend section of "The Sydney Morning Herald" in the 1980s. She also muses on her own current novel and Stephen King's writing memoir, which is a nice touch.

If you're pounding away on that current book commission, or just struggling to get started on the new novel then I suggest skipping this news item in "The Sydney Morning Herald": 26 years after being contracted to write a biography of Miles Franklin, author Jill Roe has finally delivered. Given that Franklin left behind 124 volumes of her papers, and correspondence with over 1000 people, the time taken to work through it all is hardly surprising. I actually admire Roe's persistence.

Ampersand Duck picked up a nearly new secondhand copy of Colleen McCulloch's new novel The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet - a sequel to Pride and Prejudice - couldn't resist reading it, and suddenly wondered why the author bothered.

Further On (Up the Road)

The "Neglected Books" website lists The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney series by Henry Handel Richardson. "Henry Handel Richardson is a writer of the very top rank...Sentence for sentence, the writing holds your interest as only the best novels do. Here is a writer in English we can read without the filter of translation."

Anita Heiss discusses the question: "What makes Australian Literature Australian?" Alex Miller has a good line: "Anyone who believes we need a definition of something indefinable is not an artist, but publicist." Something always gets left out of any such definition. It's like trying to herd cats.

Glenn Harper, on the "International Noir" weblog has discovered the tv adaptations of the first two Murray Whelan novels by Shane Maloney, and is pretty impressed.

Book launches aren't all beer and skittles, as Kirsty Brooks makes clear.

D.M. Cornish has loaded a zoomable map of his Half-Continent from his "Monster Blood Tattoo" series of YA novels.

Crikey, the major independent Australian news site, has launched Crikey Blogs. This includes the usual suspects: politics, business, environment and sport, but also includes an Australian literary weblog. Angela Meyer's "LiteraryMinded" blog has now moved over under the Crikey umbrella.

Sean Williams reprints a piece he wrote for the "Adelaide Advertiser" about how he came to write Star Wars novels.

It's Hard to be a Saint in the City

Shane Jiraiya Cummings speculates that sf and fantasy publishing in this country is headed for a bust over the next 12 months or so.

The Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival, which runs from October 21-26, features a number of Australian writers: Gail Jones, Nam Le, and Shaun Tan. It's the geek in me that notices they also have Ursula K. Le Guin on the list, which means they have a Guest of Honor from both the first and fourth Aussiecons. It's just the way I'm seeing the world at present.

Max Barry sets out to convince you that you really should have a big bag of cement in the shed or basement, just in case there a fresh body you need to get buried in a hurry. I think there's half a bag in my shed. Sizes up the family, "Hmmm, might be enough."

Robert Drewe, in "The Age", ponders "At every writers' festival, in every session, you can depend on the work-habits question. Someone always wants to know the author's routine. There must be a secret -- what is it? Hitting the desk at four in the morning? Or keeping ordinary office hours? Writing 2000 words a day, no matter what? A room facing north? Regular tai chi exercise breaks? A state-of-the-art laptop? A Mont Blanc fountain pen and special ink imported from Romania? A school exercise book and a Garfield mug of sharpened 2B pencils?"

And, speaking of festivals, it appears that the Brisbane Writers Festival, has achieved a "triumph of books over star authors".

Open All Night

"The Guardian" newspaper has compiled a set of "digested reads" for all 6 books on this year's Man Booker shortlist. A good way to appear as if you've read them when, clearly, you don't have the time.

Ampersand Duck got along to the ceremony for the Prime Minister's Literary Award; shook Kev's hand, and spoke to our Pete. Not a bad night overall.

Author, critic and academic, Kerryn Goldsworthy, has decided to put her "Pavlov's Cat" out to pasture and start a new venture titled "Still Life With Cat". Apparently it was easier than revamping the old one. Seems I was the first Bloglines subscriber for this new weblog. Just thought you might like to know that.

And straight after writing that last paragraph I came across the following note attached to a Wikipedia edit: "you never have a comma after first word in a sentence. You're WRITING - not speaking." News to me.

The Victorian Premier's Literary Awards has a category for poetry named after C.J. Dennis, and back in Auburn, South Australia, where the poet was born, the C.J. Dennis Literary awards are presented to schoolchildren in both and short story categories.

The Kan Family visited Winton in Queensland, where "Waltzing Matilda" was written. A very quiet place by the looks.

When the Lights Go Out

Susan Johnson ponders the feelings of Australian writers abroad.

Juliet Marillier explains some of her working methods as she heads towards the deadline for her next novel. It all sounds a little scary to me.

If you ever wondered why Australian poetry wasn't much appreciated outside of Australia, then maybe this piece from "The Argus" from 10 December 1924 might just have the answer:

Lecturing before the Empire Poetry League on "Australian Poetry," Mrs W.A. Holman criticised Mr C. J. Dennis's "Sentimental Bloke." She said that although she had met many Australian types she had never met the "Sentimental Bloke." The language of the poem savoured of Whitechapel rather than of Australia. A member of the audience remarked that no Australian poem expressed a longing for the home country. Mrs Holman said that the only poem she knew expressing a home-sick feeling was one by Adam Lindsay Gordon written to his sister a year after he arrived in Australia.
The poem she refers to by Gordon may be "To My Sister". But it's hard to be sure as Gordon wrote this on 4th August 1853, three days before he sailed to Australia.

Remember last week when I said that Sean Williams's latest "Star Wars" tie-in novel was heading for #1 on "The New York Times" bestseller list? Well, Sean has a scan of the list from 7th September, and, yep, there he is on top of the pile. I'd frame it if I was him.

Real World

What's it like releasing a book that you are told, prior to launch, will debut at #1 on the New York Times hardback bestseller list? Ask Sean Williams. He knows.

Rebecca Starford, deputy editor of "Australian Book Review", discusses the price of books in Australia, especially as Penguin have decided to release 50 "Popular Penguins" in Australia at $9.95 a pop. Non-Australian readers might find even that price steep, but in a country where the average paperback starts at over $20, the Penguin price is very, very noticeable. And welcomed.

Anita Heiss prints the speech made by Terri Janke to launch Anita's new novel Avoiding Mr Right. Anita also mentions that the Australian Society of Authors has donated one dollar for each of its members ($3,078 in total), to the Indigeous Literacy Project.

And on the same topic, Judith Ridge went to a book launch that brought home the significance of the Project.

Philip Pullman lists The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay as one of the 40 works on his essential reading list.

Angela Meyer has published a short interview with the author of I Dream of Magda Stefan Laszczuk (only 5 questions - about the size of our Crime Fiction Snapshots from earlier this year) on her "LiteraryMinded" weblog.

Spare Parts

Justine Larbalestier asks "Why should a reader keep reading the work of someone who pisses them off?" That is, if you don't like an author's "politics/personality/hygiene/habits" would you stop reading them?

Some of Melbourne's independent booksellers are interviewed about their book preferences and what their customers get up to in their shops: "I caught a guy recently ridiculously trying to shove about four cookbooks down his pants. I don't know how he thought he was going to walk out. He'd been quite friendly and chatty and told us where he worked and was enthusing about the cookbooks. And then suddenly decided he just had to have them, but couldn't afford them."

Back in 2005 I linked to a website devoted to A. Bertram Chandler, an English-born Australian sf writer. Now Steve Davidson has created another such website about the author, but this time concentrating on his Rimworlds series of stories.

John Pilger is elected to the Hall of Fame on the wonderful weblog "If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats".

David Malouf has been awarded the Muriel Spark International Fellowship: "In a special Edinburgh International Book Festival autumn event, Malouf, will be at the Traverse Theatre on 23 September." The previous recipient was Margaret Atwood.

The Line

Some people can find themselves more than a little overtaken by the personality of certain bush poets.

Danielle Torres includes A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute in her list of books for "War in Fiction, Part 2, WW II".

Matt Rubinstein's novel A Little Rain on Thursday is to get a German edition, titled Ein leichter Regen am Donnerstag. Which pretty much stands as a literal translation. Something new, I think.

Twitchy Finger's favourite part of Banjo Paterson's "Clancy of the Overflow" are the lines:

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plain extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
If you look at the banner of this weblog you'll see mine.

Man's Job

Muphry's Law is an adage that states that "if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written." John Bangsund of the Victorian Society of Editors (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". You can read more about this on Wikipedia. John Bangsund is one of Australia's greatest ever sf fans. I would also point you to his Wikipedia page, but, unfortunately, there isn't one. Yet another little project I'll have to get to some time soon.

In "The Courier-Mail" Ian Barry speculates that Western Australian author Greg Egan might be one of those who steps up to fill the void left by the death of Arthur C. Clarke earlier this year.

Angela Savage gives a rundown on the panels she moderated and participated in during the Crime & Justice Festival held in Melbourne recently.

"Sunnie's Book Blog" looks at the festival from the other side. As does Karen on the "Aust Crime" weblog.

And Jane, of the "Speakeasy" weblog has been at the Byron Bay Writers' Festival.

On the "My Book, the Movie" weblog, Jarad Henry discusses how he would like to see his second novel, Blood Sunset, adapted for the screen.

"The Book Grocer" has opened a new shop in High Street, Armadale - the suburb of Melbourne.

Instances of Matilda #2


Matilda's, Nambucca Heads, NSW


Shaun Tan's The Arrival has been adapted for the stage by the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre.

The "Monkey with a Machinegun" weblog posts a possible last paragraph to the "Not-So-Great Australian Novel". Needs to change "sidewalk" to "footpath", however.

Karen spent a fair amount of time at the Crime & Justice Festival last weekend and has been writing about what she found there on her weblog.

"The Independent" newspaper runs a piece titled "Crime Fiction: Around the World in 80 Sleuths". Two of them are Australian: Diamond Doves by Adrian Hyland, and The Broken Shore by Peter Temple. The rest of the list is pretty damn good as well.

The "Sleepers Alamanac" people have made available podcasts from their Salons held over winter in Melbourne: Ramona Koval in conversation with Zoe Dattner, Sophie Cunningham in conversation with Louise Swinn, and Steven Carroll (this year's Miles Franklin Award winner) also in conversation with Louise Swinn.

D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo series now has a book trailer up on YouTube.

Human Touch

In "Newsweek", Jennifer Egan, author of the National Book Award finalist Look at Me, chooses Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard as one of her "Five Most Important Books". Also featured is Invisble Man by Ralph Ellison, which reminded me that recently I happened to be switching tv channels in typical male fashion when I came across "Mission Impossible 3". I switched in just as the character played by Laurence Fishburne was saying something along the lines of: "He's like the invisible man. That's Wells, not Ellison." Which I thought was rather witty for a crappy action movie.

The "Rough Front" weblog - which looks at book cover art - is impressed with a recent cover for 1988 by Andrew McGahan.

The International Horror Guild award nominations have been announced and Shaun Tan's The Arrival is on the nominee list for Best Illustrated Narrative. Tan's book is many things, but horror? That seems a bit of a stretch.

Chloe Hooper introduces her new book, The Tall Man, on YouTube. Authors take note.

Back in April, Anne Summers launched Virginia Lloyd's new novel The Young Widow's Book of Home Improvement - which I think is one of the best book titles around - and you can now read the speech she gave. Lloyd indicates that she is scheduled to appear on Australian daytime television sometime in August. She'd better make sure her dancing style is up to scratch.

A while back I made a comment about how there seems to have been a big revival in that great old sf sub-genre space opera. Sean Williams thinks he's about to start a second wave with some new, big ideas. And let me tell you, as far as space opera is concerned, bigger is definitely better.

Sophie Masson loves libraries. Our family does too. When my son visted the local public library just down the street from his school, he was one of the few kids in his class with his own card. I found that rather disappointing.

All the Way Home

Margo Lanagan's story "The Goosle", a re-telling of the Hansel and Gretel story, has been causing a bit of a storm around the intertubes.

Andrew Kelly meets an illustrator who has moved away from the electronic medium and back to paper. Which is an excellent idea, as long as what you put on the paper is legible. I'm finding that my writing is getting worse and worse. From a very poor base this is not at all useful and I now find I'm printing letters as often as I scrawl. Makes it at least readable to me. Can't say about anyone else.

Toni Jordan, whose debut novel Addition features on the Richard and Judy book club's summer reading list in the UK, has listed her "Top 10 flawed romantic heroines" for "The Guardian" newspaper.
[Thanks to Marshal Zeringue and his weblog "Campaign for the American Reader" for the link.]

The local council in Creswick, Victoria, is developing a playground in the town based on Norman Lindsay's novel The Magic Pudding.

The "Out of Battle" weblog has published Edward Dyson's poem, "Billjim".

Born to Run

An odd little item I noticed as I was just about to throw out the racing form from today's morning newspaper: race 2 on tomorrow's racing card from Flemington is called "The Banjo Paterson". Might just be worthwhile having a flutter on the basis of that. Nothing with a name like "Matilda" is listed, however.

Over the Rise

"The Vapour Trail" website looks at the history of Richmond larrikins from the early 20th century.

Pavlov's Cat is reading a book about a middle-aged woman who's teaching a writing class, who "has a blog, and a malicious anonymous troll/stalker to go with it." PC is a bit worried about possible similarities.

D.M. Cornish reveals what he's up to.

Sophie Masson writes about her experimentation of making a book trailer for her latest YA mystery, The Case of the Diamond Shadow. She also provides a link to the end product.

"The Times" newspaper picks its best Summer Reads - for the Northern hemisphere - and includes some familiar works: His Illegal Self by Peter Carey, Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones, A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, and The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser.

Michael Evans, Defence Editor of "The Times", picks On the Beach by Nevil Shute as one of his top six books on "nucleur (sic) war". Maybe he's taking pronunciation lessons from a certain US president.

All I'm Thinkin' About

Pavlov's Cat continues her run with the Miles Franklin Award by successfully picking this year's winner.

I'm starting to think I should set up a separate category for posts about all the prizes and awards that Shaun Tan has been nominated for. The latest is "The Harvey Award". Forbidden Planet has the details.

Tracey Rolfe is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and editing at Victoria University (TAFE). On her weblog, "Speculating about Fiction" she contemplates the role of writer as celebrity.

In an article titled "Workplace Wisdom Found in Fiction" in the "U.S. News & World Report", Michael S. Wade includes Max Barry's novel Company in the category of "Insane Workplaces". Also listed along with Barry are Something Happened by Joseph Heller, and Catch-22 by Heller. Impressive.

Straight Time

Roly Sussex, brother of Matilda correspondent Lucy, writes about the use and origins of the "F-word"; Gordon Ramsay gets a large mention, of course. The author mentions that the Scottish poet Robert Burns used it and I've heard it being used occasionally in the dialog of the television series "The Tudors", which concerns Henry VIII of England and his marital problems. Though whether this last example is historically accurate is another matter entirely.

Shaun Tan speculates about a movie version of his book The Lost Thing. And, in the process, mentions a possible adaptation of The Arrival.

The administrators of the 2008 Aurealis Awards have made some changes which Jonathan Strahan agrees with, and some not. In this era when we're attempting to reduce our paper usage, why would you drop electronic submission from the awards' process? Yes, reading stories on screen is difficult, but do you really need to receive a 300 page book to read one story of 15 pages? If you really want to read it on paper, then print it out. The relevant paragraph from the Rules and Conditions reads: "Electronic submissions are not permitted. Nominations must be submitted in hard copy to the relevant judges. However, when multiple printed copies of the work/s are difficult or expensive to obtain, nominators (particularly individual authors or small presses who face financial hardship) are encouraged to contact the Awards Coordinator to discuss. We endeavour to do all we can to assist the nomination process." [It's about half-way down.] So, does that mean if you ask nicely they'll let you submit a short story electronically? I've got no idea. Following on from this piece, the editors over at the Science Fiction Awards Watch weblog make a suggestion about how to resolve the issue. I'm not sure it's the full, or right answer, but it would be better than the current situation.

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak have been chosen as part of "The 50 Best Summer Reads" list in "The Independent".


Dean, from the "HA" [Happy Antipodean] weblog, decided to head up to the Northern Tablelands of NSW to visit the site of the Myall Creek Massacre. A recent book on the massacre was discussed last week on the ABC's "First Tuesday Book Club" program.

I'm with Susan Johnson as she strips away the artifice from Ali Smith's novels and as she longs for substance over style.

Michael Gorey went to Dingley Dell, the cottage where Adam Lindsay Gordon once lived.

Steve Meacham, in "The Sydney Morning Herald", reveals that Kenneth Slessor's masterpiece, "Five Bells", was almost titled "Six Bells".

Jonathan Strahan took part in a roundtable discussion on the "SF Signal" website on the topic: "Who Are Tomorrow's Big Genre Stars? (+ The Top 18 Genre Authors To Keep an Eye On)". Keep an eye out for Margo Lanagan and Cat Sparks.

D.M. Cornish has seen the cover of the French edition of Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling, and, as one of his commenters says, it looks a bit like Edward Gorey. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Something in the Night

Dr Anita Heiss is an Author Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Project, along with Alexis Wright, David Malouf, Tara June Winch, Andy Griffiths and Geraldine Brooks. She attended the launch of the 2008 project and listened to a speech given by the project's patron, Therese Rein.

Chris Lawson, on the "Talking Squid" weblog, alerts us to the new issue of "Steam Engine Time" from Jan Stonson and Bruce Gillespie. In particular he focusses on an article in the issue by James Doig regarding the banning in Australia, in the 1940s, of Olaf Stapledon's novel Sirius. Seems there was something about a territory-marking scene that one censor took exception to. Given the recent "censorship" fracas over a series of photos you'd be forgiven for thinking that more such territory-marking was currently underway.

David Pullar, on the "PopMatters" weblog, explains the reasons behind the size of Australian publishing and the reasons why more Australian work is not read overseas. It's simple really: "Australia is not exotic enough for publishers to see escapist potential, but is too foreign to be an easy sell."

Adelaide sf writer Sean Williams is quoted in a "TimeOut London" article about film novelisations: "As Williams notes, 'People don't buy tie-ins to get the same story again; that's what DVD players are for. They want a whole new layer, and that is often a psychological or world-building one. And sometimes OTT is exactly what you want. How else is a writer to compete with a $200 million FX budget?'"

The "Mental_Floss" weblog lists Poor Fellow My Country by Xavier Herbert, at 850,000 words, as only the 10th longest novel ever.

The Big Payback

Dean, of the "Happy Antipodean" weblog, went along to see Christos Tsiolkas and Gideon Haigh read from Tolerance, Prejudice and Fear commissioned by Sydney PEN. While there he also bumped into Helen Garner.

Stephen Carroll was in South Africa for the award ceremony for the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and has written an account of his time there for "The Age".

Susan Wyndham was a judge in the Australian Book Design Awards, and writes about the winners for "The Sydney Morning Herald".

In July, the Australian Chamber Orchestra will tour the eastern states playing a composition based on Shaun Tan's book The Red Tree.

There's a theory that Waltzing Matilda was only written to impress a woman? Yeah, so?

Anita Heiss was one of the editors of The Macquarie PEN anthology of Aboriginal Literature, and writes about what the project meant to her personally and professionally.

Bob Carr, ex-premier of New South Wales, has only just published his latest book and is already looking to his next project, as he tells "The Brisbane Times": "My Reading Life has a chapter on Australian political history and biography, but Carr had neither time nor space to cover Australian literature other than Patrick White's 'comic novels' and Colleen McCullough's ancient Rome series. He would like to do so in another book. 'I've got to write something about novelists who capture Sydney and it's the unwritten chapter of this book,' he says."

Cynthia Clampitt visited Elsey Station and came across the grave of Aeneas Gunn, author of We of the Never-Never.

Lift Me Up

Susan Johnson, who seems to be blogging more as the publication of her novel approaches, has come to the conclusion that she just isn't going to read ANY reviews of her new work. This is probably a good thing from a writer's perspective: if it's a bad review you'll only get worried or annoyed, and if it's a good review it won't make one skerrick of difference and you'll only get worried. There's a pattern there.

"The Australian" newspaper challenges the new Rudd government to "fix" the study of literature in Australia.

You might struggle to find new editions of many Australian classics but the second-hand market offers many opportunities: provided you can afford it.

Ben Peek's story "The Funeral, Ruined" is now available on the web.

Melissa Bellanta writes of larrikins in Brisbane: "'The larrikin loves Saturday night', wrote a journalist for the Brisbane Courier in December 1888, 'and in all the glory of high heels -- of the French pattern -- bell-bottomed pants, and bobtailed coats, decked with many buttons, he propels himself against hotel walls ... and bespatters the fooway with his copious expectoration'." It's the "bell-bottomed pants" I particularly object to.

Regarding the Sydney Writers' Festival

Jonathan Shaw attended Jeanette Winterson's opening address: "It was a terrific speech about the centrality of creativity and art to human experience, imagination as a necessity rather than a luxury, the importance of rejecting the notion that things are important only to the degree that they make a lot of money for someone."
Judith Ridge chaired a session on speculative fiction and writes about the experience. Also featured were writers D.M. Cornish (Monster Blood Tattoo) and David Kowalski (The Company of the Dead), and editor of Aurealis magazine Stuart Mayne.

Better Days

Last year's Australian/Vogel Award winner I Dream of Magda is now out.

Text Publishing have instituted The Text Young Adult Prize worth a $10,000 advance against royalties. Entries close on 31 July 2008.

Susan Johnson discusses the vexed question of "blurbs", wondering who she will ask to blurb her upcoming novel Life in Seven Mistakes.

Juliet Marillier was in Melbourne for the Children's Book Council of Australia Conference, the one with Neil Gaiman and Shaun Tan, and writes about it on the "Writer Unboxed" weblog.

Gemma, on the "Meet Me at Mike's" weblog, has posted a set of photos taken from C.J. Dennis's Book for Kids on Flickr.

Jean and Doug, of the "Left Home" weblog, went out to Toolangi to visit C.J. Dennis's Singing Gardens, and have posted a photo of the copper beech tree that was planted by John Masefield, Poet Laureate, when he visited Dennis there in 1934. They say 1938, but it really was 1934 - see Dennis's piece from earlier today.

"The Little Professor" is teaching Picnic at Hanging Rock, but is forced to consider the film as the novel is not in print in the US.

Dean, at the "Happy Antipodean", reviews The Pixie O. Harris Fairy Book, first published in 1924, and poses the question "We've got a Miles Franklin prize - why not a Pixie O'Harris prize for children's literature?"

Slip Sliding

In one of the best literary association questions I've seen since I-don't-know-when, Jeff VanderMeer got a number of authors to answer the question: "But which beer goes with this?" Meaning, of course, their latest literary work. Margo Lanagan chooses a local (ie New South Wales) brew, and just goes to show that if she struggles with her next novel she can always take up reviewing beer.

I thought I was obsessive, but John Huxley goes further down that road than even I would venture as he considers the inaugral edition of the NSW version of "Who's Who".

Laurie Duggan describes what it was like to be named one of the "High Flyers of 88" by "Bulletin" magazine.

And speaking of that magazine there's a story doing the rounds that it may be revived.

Judith Ridge went along to the Children's Book Council Conference in Melbourne over the May 2-4 weekend, and has posted her first thoughts about it.

Susan Johnson has picked up on a problem with a lot of recent reviews of The Disquiet by Julia Leigh.

Around Anzac Day there is always a number of books published depicting Australians at war. In "The Australian", Patrick Walters looks at a batch of them.

Marshal Zeringue, on the "Campaign for the American Reader" weblog, asks Sean Williams what he is reading.

The Web is a Book

Pavlov's Cat puts into context the recent announcement of a new Chair of Australian Literature at the University of Western Australia.

"The State" webpage, which styles itself as South Carolina's home page, carries a video interview with Janette Turner Hospital.

Les Murray's poem, "Noonday Axeman" is here.

As his new novel Breath is close to being launched, Tim Winton will only be appearing once in Sydney, on May 11.

LiteraryMinded has been at Varuna and is all fired up to enter the Vogel award.

[The title of this entry is adapted from a quote from St Augustine: "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page."]

Not All Those Who Wander are Lost

"The Australian" newspaper is reporting that the Western Australian State Government is instigating

...the new Premier's Australia-Asia literary fund, worth $1.2 million over four years and touted as the richest of its kind in Australia, will be managed jointly by the department and the State Library of WA. It will be judged by a panel of three: an Australian author (to be appointed) and two international authors who have already been selected.

They are Sri Lankan-born author and journalist Nury Vittachi, founder of Asia Literary Review, who has played a key role in setting up literary organisations in the Asian region; and Karachi-born novelist Kamila Shamsie, who has judged Britain's Orange prize for new fiction.

Unlike the contentious Prime Minister's Literary Awards, the panel will make the final decision about the winning book. The winning author's prize will be more than the $100,000 offered by the PM's prize.

Sophie Cunningham, the new editor of the Australian literary periodical "Meanjin", opens a cupboard in the magazine's office and discovers 68 years of back issues. Some of the covers are wonderful.

Genevieve provides the details about a new Chair of Australian Literature being created by the Rudd Government at the University of Western Australia.

Judith Ridge reports on the launch of Woolshed Press, a new Australian children's book imprint from Random House publishers.

Lonely Planet Publishers find themselves in a spot of trouble over news that an author plagiarised most of the details in one of their travel guides. I'm not looking to visit Colombia anytime in the near future, which is probably a good thing - on a number of levels.

Angela Savage clocks in with Milestone #1, the completion of the first draft of her new novel - a follow-up to Behind the Night Bazaar. The author featured in our recent "Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot."

Justine Larbalestier found a copy of her novel Magic or Madness in a German bookshop - the German edition of course - and found it sitting next to a book by John Marsden. "I've been stunned by how many Aussie books I've been seeing in translation on our travels. Oodles of them by the likes of Trudi Canavan, Sara Douglass, Sonya Hartnett, John Marsden, Garth Nix, Marcus Zusak etc., etc. World domination!"

Miscellaneous Interesting Stuff

You may remember the interview I did with Sophie Masson here on Matilda for the Crime Snapshot last month - if not, why not? - and now Sophie has posted the cover art for her new YA Mystery, The Case of the Diamond Shadow, that we discussed.

Jonathan Strahan, Hugo-nominee and co-editor with Gardner Dozois of The New Space Opera, talks about, yes, space opera on the SFSignal website. (His piece is 4th down.) "I'm aware that we all think we live in some kind of post-cyberpunk world, and that Philip K. Dick's crazy paranoia seems to be keeping Hollywood in business these days, but how could you possibly argue that space opera is NOT mainstream when we live in the same world as Star Trek and Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica and so on and so forth?"

Susan Wyndham's new book, Life In His Hands: The True Story Of A Neurosurgeon And A Pianist, is now out, and in "The Sydney Morning Herald", she discusses it and other recent books about death and dying.

Susan Johnson reveals on her weblog that, shock, horror, the main character of her novel-in-progress is named "Susan". No such a big deal you might think, but you have to keep in mind all the discussion about Helen Garner's latest novel,
the main character of which was also named "Helen". Johnson provides an explanation in advance to forestall the grilling she is sure she is going to get. I wish this wasn't necessary, but I see her point. I wonder how many "ordinary" readers (ie non-journalists) will worry about it. I'm sure I won't. In City of Glass, Paul Auster wrote about a writer turned private detective descending into madness, named "Paul Auster"; which tends to take things about as far as they can go. Auster was deemed to be "post-modern". Not a phrase I have heard in connection with Helen Garner, nor, I suspect, will I hear it when reading about Susan Johnson's next novel.

Short, Sharp Shocks

Henry Rosenbloom, publisher at Scribe, has had quite enough of the antiquated colonial practice of British publishers considering Australia and New Zealand as still part of some colonial empire. He makes a good argument for the belief that Australian book sales are helping to prop up some inefficient publishing efforts in the UK.

A couple of years back, as she explains on her weblog "The Vapour Trail", Melissa Bellanta went to see her sister appear in a stage production of C.J. Dennis's "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke". She was struck by the different ways audiences of today and the 1910s would react to the humour. She expands a bit more on the larrikin style in a further post.

This beginner's list of Australian crime fiction is a little bit old now, but as Karen of the "AustCrime Fiction" weblog said recently, she keeps getting asked about it and she's always updating it.

Marshal Zeringue, of the "Writers Read" weblog, asks Peter Corris what he is reading: crime and Hemmingway it would appear.

"RMIT news" (that's the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) gives a rundown on the success being enjoyed by a number of the current and former students of their PhD (Creative Media), Master of Creative Media (Creative Writing) and Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing programs. Names such as Kevin Rabelais and Toni Jordan appear.

Diversions Among the InterTubes

If you've ever wondered how authors go about writing outlines for their books, then Sean Williams has the details for you.

"The American Book Review" has compiled its list of the 100 Best Last Lines from Novels [PDF file]. Patrick White's Tree of Man makes the list at number 71 with "So that, in the end, there was no end."

Back in 1960, Miles Franklin Award shortlisted author Christopher Koch spent some time in Stanford. Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, remembers him. And check out who else was there.

Chris Mansell was peeved that she couldn't figure out where poetry fitted into the new Prime Minister's literary awards, so she wrote to the adminstrators to find out. She wasn't impressed with the reply, and it's easy to see why.

In a review by Nicholson Baker in "The New York Review of Books": "[Wikipedia] worked and grew because it tapped into the heretofore unmarshaled energies of the uncredentialed. The thesis procrastinators, the history buffs, the passionate fans of the alternate universes of Garth Nix, Robotech, Half-Life, P.G. Wodehouse, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charles Dickens, or Ultraman -- all those people who hoped that their years of collecting comics or reading novels or staring at TV screens hadn't been a waste of time -- would pour the fruits of their brains into Wikipedia, because Wikipedia added up to something. This wasn't like writing reviews on Amazon, where you were just one of a million people urging a tiny opinion and a Listmania list onto the world -- this was an effort to build something that made sense apart from one's own opinion, something that helped the whole human cause roll forward."

Penni Russon, of "Eglantine's Cake" and The Indigo Girls fame, has been touring the Wimmera talking to children in schools and libraries, and found "some groups were switched on, happy to be there, interested in me and what I was talking about. And some groups were frankly depressing and shocking. In one, after half an hour of talking to restless, blank kids I finally asked in desperation 'Hands up who reads.' One hand went up straight away. Fifteen LONG seconds later, another drifted up into the air. In a room of about thirty kids, two boys and no girls were willing to admit to being readers. I looked at those two kids and thought you are the bravest kids in this room. I'm not worried about you. Not just because I think reading is important but because they're not afraid of extending themselves, they're not afraid of where reading might take them. With this same group I asked them to write down a lie about themselves. The girls I looked at had written, as their lie, 'I am gay.' It seemed to me these girls were scared of their interior lives, of their feelings betraying them, of being different in any way. No wonder books scare them."

Instances of Matilda #1

A bit of explanation is needed for here. Dave Langford, sf writer and fan, produces a monthly sf newsletter called Ansible, out of his home in Reading, UK. Each week he, with the help of his readers, includes a section called Thog's Masterclass, the main aim of which is to highlight those, shall we say, stylistic and grammatical diversions to which all writers are prone. In other words he's extracting the urine out of anything and anyone in the sf field by pointing out their authorial bloopers. It's all in good fun.

From the latest issue comes the following entry:

Eyeballs in the Sky. 'Matilda was lovely, but she had bright burning eyes that you could feel creep down your face and into your belly.' (Arthur N. Scarm, The Werewolf vs Vampire Woman, 1972)

Interesting Turns on the Wallaby Track

Genevieve, on the "reeling and writhing" weblog informs us that Readings bookstores in Melbourne now carry reviews of new stock as well as details of upcoming events on an RSS feed. Readings is an independent book chain worth supporting, with the Hawthorn store being my local.

With another couple of scandals doing the publishing rounds, the "LA Times" has published a list of "Memorable Literary Hoaxes". Good to see Australia gets two entries in the list: "Margo Morgan, Mutant Message Down Under" (1994)"; and "The poetry of Ern Malley, an Australian mechanic who had died in 1943".

Changing horses, or in this case publishing houses, mid-stream can be a little tough in anyone's life. Juliet Marillier found she had comletely re-arrange her writing schedule, dropping one book midway through, and starting the planned second one first. Needless to say, complications ensued.

A Few Slivers of Interest

Susan Wyndham and Ed Wright put arguments for and against Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn (or maybe that should be "against and for" given the order of the authors). Personally, I was "for" it.

Justine Larbelestier gets cranky: "Ever since I [became] a YA writer I have been hearing certain people accusing me and my colleagues of writing books solely for the sake of being as dark/bleak/shocking/perverted/[insert your own personal bugbear in adjectival form here]. 'Why did you have to put x into your book?' is a question that almost all of us seem to hear at one time or another. "It drives me nuts."

ABC TV is picking up on the crime fiction buzz by producing a special book program titled Jennifer Byrne Presents Crime. Not many details as yet but the program will air on ABC 1 on Tuesday 11th March at 10:00pm, and be repeated on ABC 2 on Sunday 16th March at 7:00pm. ABC TV is pretty good at making videos of these programs available on the web for viewing after the event. I'll keep an eye out for it. [Thanks to the AustCrime weblog for the link.]

Smatterings of Interest

John Birmingham has an encounter with Shane Maloney at a readers' festival. There's also someone else invloved who he doesn't name.

Art Neuro isn't too happy with Les Murray's response to a request for a blurb. Best comment: "Maybe Puncher & Wattmann [the publishers] should ask the other Les Murray for a blurb."

I mentioned last year that Tim Winton's collection of short stories, The Turning, was being adapted for the stage. Now comes news that the adaptation started at the Playhouse Theatre in Perth on 22nd February. The play runs till Saturday March 8.

And speaking of Winton, he will be attending the upcoming Brighton Festival in the UK (May 3 to 25).

Long time sf fan, artist and all round good guy Nick Stathpoulos has been shortlisted for the 2008 Archibald Prize - Australia's premier portrait prize initiated by J.F. Archibald. Nick's painting is of movie critic David Stratton snoozing in a cinema. Nick previously entered the competition with a portrait of ABC television puppet character Mr Squiggle, and his creator Norman Hetherington. [Thanks to Judith Ridge of the Misrule weblog.]

Just a Few Items of Interest

Sophie Masson discusses the differences between authors who write for children and young adults, and their counterparts in the adult literary world. It's all down to the readership.

Steve Tolz, author of A Fraction of the Whole, is touring the US.

Australian poet Les Murray is sick of being asked to write blurbs for other poets' books and has come up with a rather obscure method of saying "no". Murray does, however, have other work on his plate as he is announced as the new visiting professor attached to Macquarie Dictionary, at the University of Sydney.

Wendy Orr, author of Nim's Island, is off to Los Angeles to walk the red carpet for the premiere of the film of the book. The film opens in Australia April 3.

2012 edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne

Ben Peek has alerted me to the upcoming publication of 2012 edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne, an anothology of sf stories by Australian writers which imagines Australia as it will be in four years. The book is upcoming from Ticonderoga Publications. As the blurb says:

Each of these stories presents an original take on the imminent future of humanity. Each has something to say about who we are and who we might want to be. 2012 is both a call to imagine the future of the world and a call to create it.

Deborah Biancotti Martin Livings Dirk Flinthart David Conyers Simon Brown Lucy Sussex Tansy Rayner Roberts Kaaron Warren Angela Slatter Ben Peek Sean McMullen

The question is: were these stories written before last year's Federal election, or after? And would that make a difference?

Miscellaneous Items of Interest

A number of sf editors and writers are asked the salient question: "What purpose does short fiction serve?" Among those polled are Jonathan Strahan ("A lot of the great ideas in the field started in short fiction. If you want to read the best, get the purest Sfnal fix, it's often to be found in short fiction. Also, it's a great way to sample a bunch of new writers, get a feel for them before committing to novels."); and Jack Dann ("What do readers get out of a short story? They get a whole world wrapped up in a few minutes. They get that shiver down the spine real-quick. And then they can go on to another story, an entirely different world, plot, experience. It's reading novels on speed...except, of course, you don't get a novel. You can't relax for days in the experience. You get the rush fast, and a case might be made that the short form is a more perfect 'product' than a novel.")

Davey announces "I'm very excited to say that I've been successful in obtaining funding from Arts Victoria to develop a new collection of poems, based on correspondence between Australian poet Bernard O'Dowd and American bard Walt Whitman...The correspondence (which has been preserved in the State Library of Victoria and also published in Overland magazine) is notable both for Whitman's brevity (he was, after all, on his death bed), as for O'Dowd's idolisation of the man he calls 'master', and once even 'comrade'."

And it's odd that I should be skimming through a recently purchased copy of I Recall by R.H. Croll - the man who introduced C.J. Dennis to John Garibaldi Roberts - when I came across a note about this very correspondence. Croll and O'Dowd were in the same Melbourne readers' group in the early 1900s.

BookTagger is an Australian version of LibraryThing. Both perform similar functions - social networking groups for book lovers - though BookTagger has a ways to go to catch up to LibraryThing's 23 million cataloged books. Gotta start somewhere though.

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