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Women in SF and Fantasy

And also following up on yesterday's reprint about Australian Science Fiction in the 1950s is a piece in "The Age" about how women are dominating current Australian science fiction and fantasy publishing.

Australian Classics Re-emerge

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michael_heyward.jpg    Michael Heyward, founder and publisher at Text Publishing, is undertaking a program of reprinting a number of Australian Literature classics - books that are out of print and which have been neglected for too long. He was interviewed for "The Age" by Michael Short.

In explaining the project during our interview, the full transcript of which and a short video are at, Heyward gives a definition of what makes a book a classic.

''There is something about them that remains new, fresh, shocking, challenging, confronting and energising.

''The thing about old books that I find mysterious and interesting is that reading them now, we are readers who the writer could not have imagined.

''We belong, from the point of view of the book, to the unimaginable future, and it's when a book passes that test of moving beyond the circumstances of its publication, where people are either cheering it on or they're howling at it or whatever, and it encounters readers who have no prior interest in the book, no preconception about whether it's good or bad and different, that's when you get a really fascinating reading experience.''

Australia is a nation of readers; we have long had a relatively high consumption of books per person. Paradoxically, though, we publish a relatively low number of books compared with other industrialised, rich nations.

You can read the full list of the books published to date here. There is the distinct possibility of more to follow.

Best Books of the Year: Locus Recommended Reading List

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Locus styles itself "the magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy field", so items on their list can safely be said to fit those genres, plus young adult, horror, supernatural etc etc.

Their Recommended Reading List for 2011 includes the following Australian entries:

Novel - Science Fiction
The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan

Young Adult Books
Eona by Alison Goodman
Goliath by Scott Westfeld

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan
Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies: The Essential Lucy Sussex by Lucy Sussex

Anthologies - Original

Ghosts by Gaslight edited by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers
Eclipse Four edited by Jonathan Strahan
Life on Mars: Tales of the New Frontier edited by Jonathan Strahan

Anthologies - Reprint
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Five edited by Jonathan Strahan

"Moth's Take" by Isobelle Carmody
"Catastrophic Disruption of the Head" by Margo Lanagan

Short Stories
"The Beancounter's Cat" by Damien Broderick
"The Shadowwes Box" by Terry Dowling
"Mulberry Boys" by Margo Lanagan
"The Patrician" by Tansy Rayner Roberts
"All You Can Do is Breathe" by Kaaron Warren

My apologies if I've missed anyone.

Australian Classics Not Available

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Michael Heyward of Text Publishing laments the non-availability of Australian classics.  Miles Franklin Award winning books such as The Glass Canoe by David Ireland and Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott are out of print, and would probably be expected to stay that way, except that Heyward's publishing house is reprinting them.

In 2011, in not a single course in the whole country were students asked to read Henry Handel Richardson's The Fortunes of Richard Mahony. This is the equivalent of not one Russian university teaching Anna Karenina, of Madame Bovary going untaught in France. It is a rampageous scandal, to borrow a coinage from HHR herself. If I tell you that Patrick White's The Tree of Man was prescribed on two courses last year, or The Man Who Loved Children, which MUP recently put back into print, on just one, you start to see the extent of the problem.

Such educational poverty is consistent with the views expressed in 1935 by G. H. Cowling, professor of English literature at Melbourne University, who told readers of The Age that: ''The rewards of literature in Australia are not good enough to make it attract the best minds ... Good Australian novels which are entirely Australian are bound to be few ... Australian life is too lacking in tradition, and too confused, to make many first class novels.''

Text will begin publishing the classics in May at $12.95 a pop.  You can find the list of the first 32 scheduled for release in their latest catalog.

Major Australian Literary Anniversaries in 2012

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Births in 1912

John Bray (d. 1995)
A. Bertram Chandler (d. 1984)
Margaret Diesendorf (d. 1993)
Russell Drysdale (d. 1981)
Barbara Giles
Merle Glasson (d. 2002)
George Johnston (d. 1970)
Stephen Estaban Kelen (d. 2003)
Jean Lang
Ian McLaren (d. 2000)
Vera Newsom (d. 2006)
Joan Phipson (d. 2003)
Roland Robinson (d. 1992)
Ray Slattery
Kylie Tennant (d. 1988)
Patrick White (d. 1990)

Deaths in 1912

Tom Beasley (b. ??)
Jospeh Furphy (b. 1843)

First Publication in 1912

Bindawalla:an Australian story by Thos. E. Spencer
The Body of His Desire: A Romance of the Soul by Rosa Praed
The Dawsons' Uncle George by Sumner Locke
Ironbark Splinters from the Australian Bush by G. Herbert Gibson
The Little Blue Devil by Dorothea Mackellar
The Old Homestead by Steele Rudd
The Private Life of Henry Maitland by Morley Roberts
A Son of Perdition: An Occult Romance by Fergus Hume
A Touch of Fantasy: A Romance for Those Who Are Lucky Enough to Wear Glasses by Arthur H. Adams

Births in 1962

Matthew Condon
Kaz Cooke
P. S. Cottier
Alison Croggon
Luke Davies
Tom Gleisner
Odo Hirsch
Emma Lew
Baz Luhrmann
Joanna Murray-Smith
Rob Sitch
Mark Tredinnick

Deaths in 1962

Mary Gilmore (b. 1865)
Hugh McKay (b. 1878)

First Publication in 1962

Birds: Poems by Judith Wright
But Still the Stream by Nancy Cato
The Country of Marriage by Jon Cleary
The Cupboard Under the Stairs by George Turner
Eight Metropolitan Poems by Chris Wallace-Crabb
The Far Road by George Johnston
Gone Fishin' by Nino Culotta
Journey Among Men by Alan Marshall and Russell Drysdale
No Fixed Address: Poems by Bruce Dawe
Outrider: poems, 1956-1962 by Randolph Stowe
Picnic Races by Dymphna Cusack
The River and the Brook by Nancy Phelan
The Well Dressed Explorer by Thea Astley
The Will of the Tribe by Arthur W. Upfield

Best Books of the Year: The New York Times

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The New York Times has released its list of best books for 2011.  As far as I can tell, the only Australian item on the list was a collection of oems by Les Murray.  The paper had this to say about it:

Taller When Prone: New Poems by Les Murray - Viscerally smoldering anger, the signature quality of Murray's poetry, turns conventional pieties inside out. 

Best SF of the Year 2010 Part 2

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Aside from the "Locus" magazine selections for best sf and fantasy of the year across all categories (novel, long-short, short-short, etc etc), we also have those shorter stories that have been selected in the various annual "Best of the Year" collections.

Jonathan Strahan's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year is now up to volume five and features the following Australian stories:

"Under the Moons of Venus," Damien Broderick
"The Miracle Aquilina," Margo Lanagan

From what I can figure Rich Horton started his series of "Best of..." volumes in 2006, producing one book for each of science fiction and fantasy. The past two years he has combined both into one.  His The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011 acually covers 2010 and includes:

"Under the Moons of Venus" by Damien Broderick

Best SF of the Year - "Locus" Magazine

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Each February "Locus" magazine ("the magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy field") releases its selected reading list for the previous year.  This year contains the following:

Novel - Science Fiction

Zendegi - Greg Egan

Young Adult Books

Factotum - D. M. Cornish
The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 7: Lord Sunday - Garth Nix
Behemoth - Scott Westerfeld

First Novels

Clowns at Midnight - Terry Dowling


Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder - Terry Dowling

Anthologies - Original

Sprawl edited by Alisa Krasnostein
Godlike Machines edited by Jonathan Strahan
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders

Anthologies - Reprint

Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan and Marianne S. Jablon

Anthologies - Bests

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Four edited by Jonathan Strahan

Art Books

The Bird King and Other Sketches - Shaun Tan


"A Thousand Flowers" - Margo Lanagan
"Eight Miles" - Sean McMullen
"To Hold the Bridge" - Garth Nix

Short Stories

"Under the Moons of Venus" - Damien Broderick
"The Miracle Aquilina" - Margo Lanagan
"A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet" - Garth Nix
"Brisneyland by Night" - Angela Slater
"All the Love in the World" - Cat Sparks

Note: there is a chance I've missed some.

Best Books of 2010 #3 - Various

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Continuing the Australina entries in the Best Books of the Year lists:

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

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

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

Best Books of 2010 #2 - The New Yorker

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The following Australian books were chosen amongst the The New Yorker's Reviewers' Favorites for 2010:

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey;
Summertime by J.M. Coetzee

Best Books of 2010 #1 - Financial Times

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The Financial Times has chosen, amongst their best fiction picks of 2010:

Peter Carey's latest novel, Parrot and Olivier in America. They said: "Carey's brilliant evocation of the life of Alexis de Tocqueville explores themes of democracy, art, taste and class - all in the rich language of one of the world's finest writers."


The Slap by Christos Tsialkos: "A man slaps his cousin's son at a family barbecue - and triggers this soap opera of a novel. Misogynistic, voyeuristic and impressively engrossing."

Tom Keneally's Musical

It seems Tom Keneally continues to spread his literary wings, this time taking on the task of producing a musical.  Based on his book, The Great Shame, the musical has been written in collaboration with Larry Kirwan of Black 47, the Irish rock group. The two have been working on the project, on and off, for the past ten years.

"Transport" has played at the Irish Arts Centre in New York, but there doesn't appear to be any word about performances elsewhere.

2010 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper has once again chosen its selection of the Best Young Novelists in Australia.

This year they have chosen:

Kalinda Ashston, author of The Danger Game
Andrew Coombe, author of Document Z
Emily Maguire, author of Taming the Beast
Craig Silvey, author of Jasper Jones

In 2009 the paper selected Nam Le, Alice Nelson, Kevin Rabelais and Steve Toltz.

Hugo Award e-Book Packet

The Hugo Awards are one of the major awards presented within the sf/fantasy field, and the only one to have a wide, general readership as voters. The World Fantasy Awards shortlists are mainly chosen by a judging panel, with the winners picked by the same panel, and the Nebula Awards have their shortlists and winners chosen by members of the Science Fiction Writers of America.

It has recently become the custom each year for the organising committee of the World Science Fiction Convention, at which the Hugo Awards are presented, to make available an electronic collection of material covering the shortlisted works in all categories.  This has again been done this year by the organising committee of Aussiecon 4, to be held in Melbourne in early September, and you can find full details of the electronic package on their website. 

The interesting thing about this is that you can read full electronic copies of all nominated works of fiction, including all shortlisted works within the novel, novella, novelette and short story categories.  There are also full-length copies and excerpts from the other relevant categories such as Related Work, Graphic Story, Semi-Prozine, Fanwriter and Fanzine, as well as Art Samples by nominees in the Professional and Fan Artist categories.  All in all its a great way to sample the current sf and fantasy fields.

Of course there's a catch.  This packet has been designed, with the help of the respective publishers and authors, to help readers decide on their voting choices for the awards, so the packet is only available to members of Aussiecon 4.  But that is easy enough to rectify by either purchasing an attending or supporting membership of the convention, both of which will provide access to the packet and the opportunity to vote in the award process.

If you've been reading this weblog for a while you'll be aware that I do have a vested interest in this, in that I'm on the organising committee of Aussiecon 4.  Doesn't matter. With six full novels and many works of lesser length for $A70, I think the packet is pretty good value.

The Female Eunuch at 40

In this month's "Australian Literary Review", Germaine Greer reflects on her book The Female Eunuch and the effects it has brought about after 40 years.  She doesn't seem overly happy with the changes she sees in modern society:

Among the impossible demands that are still being made of the woman of 2010, as they were of the woman of 1970, is that she stay forever young, when our pedophilic culture makes clear that actual adulthood is already too old. Why else would Kate Moss, who has the body of a 12-year-old, be the rich world's favourite model? The anguish to which The Female Eunuch addressed itself is more acute now than it has ever been. Little girls are frantic about the least sign of fat on thighs or buttocks; girl children are starving themselves; girl toddlers everywhere are hideous in pink, which they wear as a uniform confirming sexual identity. Teenagers are demanding augmentation mammoplasty and their parents are happy to pay for it, because they think it will confer self-esteem and confidence. As if.
She doesn't think she will be remembered well, if at all.  I'd like to think she was wrong.

2010 Speculative Fiction Snapshot

Back in 2005 Ben Peek took it upon himself to conduct short interviews with as many Australian speculative fiction writers as he could over a one week period - he got in touch with 43 of them.

Then in 2007 another group followed up Peek's original and interviewed 83 authors and editors.

Now a similar group to the 2007 people, has decided to do it all again in this week leading up to February 22nd.

You can read all of the interviews, as they happen on the following weblogs:

Random Alex
girlie jones
Nothing Rhymes with Rachel
stiching words, one thread at a time

I'm interested to see that one of the common questions they all ask is: "Are you planning to go to Aussiecon 4 in September?"  And it seems the bulk of them will be there.

Australian Book Review Favourite Australian Novels

Back in October I mentioned that the Australian Book Review was conducting a poll of its readers to determine their favourite Australian novel.  The February 2010 issue of the magazine contains the details of that poll.  The top ten novels chosen were:

1. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
2. The Fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson
3. Voss by Patrick White
4. Breath by Tim Winton
5. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
6. My Brother Jack by George Johnston
7. The Secret River by Kate Grenville
8. Eucalyptus by Murray bail
9. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
10. The Tree of Man by Patrick White

And I reckon the only surprise on that list would be the placing of Winton's Breath.  It's only been out a year or so, and yet came in at number 4.  Winton has another novel in the top twenty: Dirt Music in at number 13, and White also had The Vivisector at number 14.

In all, 290 novels were nominated and ABR has supplied the full list. If you were looking for a definitive list of Australian fiction you could do worse than check this out.

2009 Locus Recommended Reading List

About this time each year Locus, "the magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field", releases its recommended reading list for the previous calendar year.  So, naturally, they have now put out their lists for 2009.

Australian items on the list:

Young Adult Novel
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

A Book of Endings by Deborah Biancotti
Oceanic by Greg Egan

Anthology - Original
The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois
The New Space Opera 2 edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan
X6 edited by Keith Stevenson
Eclipse Three edited by Jonathan Strahan

Anthology - Bests
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Three edited by Jonathan Strahan

"Horn" by Peter M. Ball (Twelfth Planet Press)
"Hot Rock" by Greg Egan (Oeanic)
"Wives" by Paul Haines (X6)
"Sea-Hearts" by Margo Lanagan (X6)

"The Qualia Engine" by Damien Broderick (Asimov's 8/09)
"The Wind Blowing, and this Tide" by Damien Broderick (Asimov's 4-5/09)
"The Heart of the City" by Garth Nix (Subterranean Summer '09)
"Siren Beat" by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Siren Beat/Roadkill)

Short Story
"On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the War-Machines of the Merfolk" by Peter M. Ball (Strange Horizons 7/6/09)
"In the Lot and in the Air" by Lisa Hannett (Clarkesworld 7/09)
"Ferryman" by Margo Lanagan (Firebirds Soaring)
"Living Curiosities" by Margo Lanagan (Sideshow)

Note: this list has been updated from the original post due to the iformation contained in the comments.

2010 Australia Day Honours List

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As best I can tell, Peter Goldsworthy is the only literature recipient of an honour in the 2010 Australia Day Honours List; he was awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division.

On the other hand I found 6 cricketers, 3 from the wine industry, and 2 from the various football codes.  It continues a rather poor run for Australian literature in these awards.

Forthcoming Books for 2010

What follows is a list of Australian books to look forward to in 2010.  Fiction entries are marked with "(F)", and poetry with "(P)".  It is, of course, far from complete.


Keeping Faith by Robert Averill (F)
Child of the Twilight by Carmel Bird (F)
Our Father Who Wasn't There by David Carlin
Wyatt by Garry Disher (F)
Worst of Days by Karen Kissane
Where Have You Been? by Wendy James (F)
The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 7: Lord Sunday by Garth Nix (F)
The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter (F)
Walking the Tree by Kaaron Warren (F)


The Norseman's Song by Joel Deane (F)
Mr Cleansheets by Adrian Deans (F)
Gravel by Peter Goldsworthy (F- short stories)
Trouble: Evolution of a Radical by Kate Jennings
Below the Styx by Malcolm Meehan (F)
The Life of Akmal by Akmal Saleh
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Four edited by Jonathan Strahan (F)


Clowns at Midnight by Terry Dowling (F)
In-human by Anna Dusk (F)
The Seond-Last Woman in England by Maggie Joel (F)
Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor (F)
Taller When Prone by Les Murray (P)
Glissando - A Melodrama by David Musgrave (F)
Bleed For Me by Michael Robotham (F)


The Ambassador's Mission by Trudi Canavan (F)
Monster Blood Tattoo, Book Three: Factotum by D. M. Cornish (F)
Popeye Never Told You by Rodney Hall
Lights Out in Wonderland by D. B. C. Pierre (F)
Trust by Kate Veitch (F)
Unpeeling Oswald's Onion by David Walker


Insinuations by Jack Dann (F)
Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland (F)
Mistification by Kaaron Warren (F)


After America by John Birmingham (F)
Chaos Needs a Theory by Lily Bragge
My Blood's Country by Fiona Capp
Zendegi by Greg Egan (F)
Watch the World Burn by Leah Giarrantano (F)
The Old School by Pamela Hamilton (F)
Utopian Man by Lisa Lang (F)
Down by Pattaya Bay by Angela Savage (F)
King Brown Country by Russell Skelton
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusack (F)


Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer (F)
Traitor by Stepehn Daisley (F)
The Body in the Clouds by Ashley Hay (F)
The Dark Wet by Jess Huon (F)
The Life by Malcom Knox (F)
Night Street by Kristell Thornell (F)
Bereft by Chris Womersley (F)


Private Life, Public Grief by Mary Delahunty
Lessons in Letting Go by Corinne Grant
Dead Man's Chest by Kerry Greenwood (F)
an untitled novel by Toni Jordan (F)
The Tour by Denise Scott (F)
Line of Sight by David Whish-Wilson (F)


an untitled novel by Matthew Condon (F)
Spinner by Ron Elliott (F)
Hunger by Tom Keneally
Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy Sayer (F)


The Romantic by Kate Holden
Kinglake 350 by Adrian Hyland
Made in Australia by Roger McDonald (F)

Details of the books listed here were taken from "The Age" and "Locus".

Love Machine: Sex Sells. Can Love? by Clinton Caward

Book trailers are fast becoming the must-have advertising device for books in this country, if they aren't already.

The lastest I've come across is the trailer for Love Machine: Sex Sells. Can Love?, the debut novel by Clinton Caward.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Robert Ingpen

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Alice_in_Wonderland.jpg   Walker Books have published a new edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, with illustrations by Australia's Robert Ingpen. Carroll is rather well known to the bulk of readers but Ingpen might need a bit of an introduction.  According to the publisher's webpage:

Robert Ingpen, born in 1936, is one of Australia's most successful illustrators and has written and/or illustrated more than 100 published books. He attended Geelong College to 1954 and received a Diploma of Graphic Art from RMIT. In 1958, Robert was appointed by the CSIRO as an artist to interpret and communicate the results of scientific research. From 1968, Robert worked as a freelance designer, illustrator and author. Robert also became the only Australian to be awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Medal for illustration. Presently, Roberts's work is perhaps best known for his illustrations in the centenary editions of "Peter Pan and Wendy" and "The Wind in the Willows".

Cory Doctorow, on the weblog "BoingBoing", was very impressed with the edition and has reproduced several internal illustrations.

Best SF and Fantasy Stories of the Year 2009

Each year sf editor and anthologist Jonathan Strahan, from Western Australia, choses his selection of best sf and fantasy stories of the year for his annual collection.   For 2009 he has chosen 29 stories and has listed them on his weblog.  Well, actually, he only lists 28 of the 29 stories, but there is a reason for that, as he explains

Among Jonathan's selections are the following by Australians:

"Ferryman" by Margo Lanagan
"This Wind Blowing, and This Tide" by Damien Broderick

Jonathan also links to Rich Horton's selection which is also slated for publication.  There are some similarities in the two lists.  Curiously the same two Australians appear on Horton's list, but with completely different stories.

"The Qualia Engine" by Damien Broderick
"Living Curiousities" by Margo Lanagan

Major Australian Literary Anniversaries in 2010

Births in 1910
Alec Coppel (d. 1972)
Walter Cunningham (d. 1988)
Brian Elliott (d. 1991)
Alan Moorehead (d. 1983)
Frank O'Grady (d. 1987)
Elizabeth Riddell (d. 1998)
Clive Sansom (d. 1981)
Walter Stone (d. 1981)
Elizabeth Webb
Deaths in 1910
James Lister Cuthbertson (b. 1851)
Mary Fortune (b. 1833?)
Catherine Helen Spence (b. 1825)

First Publication in 1910
"Ah, If Only We Could" by Mary Gilmore
Bells and Bees by Louis Esson
"The Boozers' Home" by Henry Lawson
"Bush Goblins" by H. M. Green
Bushland Stories by Amy Eleanor Mack
"A Bush Publican's Lament" by Henry Lawson
"The Christ-Child Day in Australia" by Ethel Turner
The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
"His Brother's Keeper" by Henry Lawson
"An Old Master" by C.J. Dennis
"The Poet" by Bernard O'Dowd
The Rising of the Court and Other Sketches in Prose and Verse by Henry Lawson
The Skyline Riders and Other Verses by Henry Lawson
"Two Sundowners" by Henry Lawson
"When Dawson Died" by Sumner Locke
"You, and Yellow Air" by John Shaw Neilson

Births in 1960
Adam Aitken
Kerry Argent
Catherine Bateson
Shane Dix
Michel Faber
Pamela Freeman
Frieda Hughes
Margo Lanagan
Kirsty Murray
Anna Nicholson
Narelle Oliver
Tim Richards
Michael Robotham
Dipti Saravanamuttu
Margaret Simons
Tim Winton

Deaths in 1960
Frank Fox (b. 1874)
N.K. Hemming (b. 1927)
E.V. Timms (b. 1895)

First Publication in 1960
Australian Bird Poems by Judith Wright
Closer to the Sun by George Johnston
Cop this Lot by Nino Cullota
A Descant for Gossips by Thea Astley
The Irishman by Elizabeth O'Conner
Poems by A.D. Hope
The Rocks of Honey by Patricia Wrightson
Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute
Valley of Smugglers by Arthur Upfield

Events at the Wheeler Centre

And speaking of the Wheeler Centre, they have released their first calendar of literary events starting in February with "A Gala Night of Storytelling" on February 13th at the Mebourne Town Hall, kicking off 6:00pm.

"Twelve of Australia's best writers come together for an intimate night of storytelling, each reflecting on those tales that have been handed down to them through the generations, each giving voice to an inheritance of wisdom, of understanding, of identity.

"With contributions from Chloe Hooper, Paul Kelly, Cate Kennedy, Judith Lucy, Shane Maloney, David Malouf, John Marsden, Alex Miller, John Safran, Christos Tsiolkas, Tara June Winch and Alexis Wright this will be a literary event like no other."

Looks like being a good one.

Best SF/F Short Story Collections of the Decade

Western Australian editor and anthologist, Jonathan Strahan, was interested to find 5 genre entries amongst the list of the A.V. Club's "10 Best Short Story Collections" of the '00s.  Interested enough in fact to consider what might be the "10 Best SF/F Short Story Collections" of the '00s.

Included in Jonathan's list are the Australians:

Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
Oceanic by Greg Egan

Best Books of the Year 2009 #7 - "The Telegraph"

"The Telegraph" newspaper has published its picks of the best books of 2009.

Barry Humphries chose: Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings, and Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.

Sue Perkins and Lucasta Miller both chose Summertime by J.M. Coetzee.

Best Books of the Year 2009 #6 - "The Guardian"

"The Guardian" newspaper, like its counterpart "The Observer", asked a number of authors, writers, poets and editors to chose the best books of the year for them.

Anthony Browne chose Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, calling it "strange and beautiful."

Peter Carey chose the final volume of The Paris Review Interiews, stating "The four volumes together will make a generous gift for anyone who writes or reads. One volume would be not too shabby either."

Hilary Mantel picked This Is How by M.J. Hyland: "Maria Hyland is like no one else writing today; her work is spare, ungiving, a challenge. At the same time, it is deeply humane."

David Peace included The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave in a long list of his best.

Simon Schama considered that Nam Le's The Boat "has (at least) three stories that will shake you through and through."

Best Books of the Year 2009 #5 - "Library Journal"

The "Library Journal" has released its selection of Best Books for 2009. 

On the main list they have chosen Wanting by Richard Flanagan, describing it as follows:"Acclaimed Australian author Flanagan draws on the tragic history of Tasmania's aboriginal people, polar explorer Sir John Franklin's ill-fated final expedition, and Charles Dickens's unhappy marriage to meditate on the devastation wrought by people convinced that repressing their 'wants,' or desires, is the foundation of civilization. Elegant and astonishing."

Jack Thompson and C.J. Dennis


That fine Australian actor, Jack Thompson, gave a reading of C.J. Dennis poems yesterday in association with the release of a CD of his readings of the poet. I received notification of the event only a few days ago and wasn't actually sure I was going to be able to make it. I'm glad I did.

The reading took place in St Francis Church in Lonsdale Street in Melbourne's CBD. Described by the priest currently in charge of the church as the oldest building in Melbourne still being used for its original purpose, it was a strange location for a poetry reading.

Surrounded by prayer candles and paintings of the Stations of the Cross about 250 people listened to Thompson reading selections from Dennis's The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke. He started by talking about his love of Dennis's words, and, in particular, those words that are no longer in widespread use. Words such as "cliner" (a young unmarried female), "Gorspil-cove" (a priest), and "glarrsy" (the glassy eye) - Thompson's favourite - were lovingly explained and expounded upon. You could tell the man was in love with the words, and the way they were used.

Although the CD release includes a range of Dennis poems, on this day Thompson restricted himself to just three selections from The Sentimental Bloke: "The Intro", "Doreen", and, my favorite, "The Play". He finished off with "Clancy of the Overflow" by Banjo Paterson, a personal favourite of his, and a phrase of which sits as the tagline for this weblog. All were warmly greeted by the audience with laughter in the right places and generous applause at the end.

"The Age" reported on the event in today's edition.

Best Books of the Year 2009 #4 - "The Observer"

"The Observer" newspaper out of the UK uses the method of asking a range of poets, writers and reviewers to chose their best books of the year for them.

Peter Carey appears to be the only Australian invited to participate, and he has chosen Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie, and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

The Australian books in the list include:
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper, chosen by Colm Toibin: "It is told with a novelist's eye for detail and flair for narrative, but there is also a passionate engagement with the story in all its complexity and a sort of rage that make the book utterly compelling."
Wanting by Richard Flanagan, chosen by Mariella Frostup: "..a brutal evocation of the fate of a young Aboriginal girl, adopted by the governor of Van Diemen's Land and his wife, and later discarded."
Ransom by David Malouf, also chosen by Mariella Frostup: "..a wonderful retelling of the encounter between Achilles and the Trojan King Priam in prose that's so good you want to eat it."

Best Books of the Year 2009 #3 - "Young Adult Library Services Association"

The Young Adult Library Services Association, which is affiliated with the American Library Association has chosen its Best Books of 2009 for Young Adults.

In the Fiction section they chose:

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier

100 Books of the Noughties

The Telegraph from the UK has created their list of the 100 books that defined the Noughties.  As you might expect, it is dominated by British and US books but a few Australian, or quasi-Australian entries sneak in.

The Crimson Petal and the White
by Michel Faber
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Boyhood, Youth, Summertime by J.M. Coetzee

I would have thought The Road by Cormac McCarthy would have been higher than number 52.  Maybe the film has taken too long to be released.

You can compare this list to the one in The Times which lists the 100 best books of the decade.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
Youth by J.M. Coetzee
The Arrival by Shaun Tan

And here The Road gets the number 1 spot.  And, believe it or not, I didn't know that before I wrote about the Telegraph's list.

[Thanks to "The Literary Saloon" for the links.]

Best Books of the Year 2009 #2 - "Amazon"

| 1 Comment releases their editors' choice of the best 100 books of the year around this time - all lumped together.

The only Australian book I could find on the list:

The Forgotton Garden, Kate Morton

On the other hand splits its choices across 12 categories.

In Biography they chose The Blaze of Obscurity: The TV Years by Clive James.
In Fiction they chose The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave.

Best Books of the Year 2009 #1 - "Publishers Weekly"

"Publishers Weekly" (sic) puts out a long list of their best 100 Books of the Year about this time.  I couldn't find any Australian books on the general list but on the Children's list we have:


Tales from Outer Suburbia
Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Levine)
Tan proves that his prose is every bit as hypnotic as his artwork in this wondrous collection that reveals the banality and strangeness of the suburbs.

Litblogs in "The Big Issue"

George Dunford, who blogs at Hackpacker, has a piece in the latest edition of "The Big Issue" titled "Click Lit".  It is based on a couple of interviews George undertook with Sydney-based author James Bradley and me - and I never cease to be amazed at how much better everyone else sounds.  I do refer to Jessa Crispin as "the queen of lit-blogs", which, even on reflection, is still right. 

Productivity Commission Report on Book Sales in Australia

The Productivity Commission has handed down its report on book publishing and selling in Australia, and, to no-one's amazement, it has recommended the complete scrapping of any restrictions on publishing in this country.  This was only to be expected.  When the only section of the industry calling out for the change are the large book-chains, and with authors, publishers, and State governments arguing against it, the result was a foregone conclusion. 

The major reason given for the report is that it will make books cheaper for the average consumer.  Oh, really?  Surely the best and quickest way to make books cheaper is to scrap the 10% GST charged on their sale as was argued for about 10 years ago when the Goods and Services tax was introduced.  But that's a different part of government so a GST reduction was never going to happen.

The only outcome from that was possibly conceivable from this report was the one delivered.  I can't remember the last time a major report was commissioned that concluded that the status quo was the best option: there must be an episode of "Yes, Minister" that deals with this - I just can't identify it at the moment. No public servant is going to accept spending a large amount of money on a report to be told that, actually, the current system was the best option. How would they be able to justify that in a management meeting?

The major arguments for the lowering of prices for consumers revolve around the situation of book sales in New Zealand and and music sales in Australia.  I haven't seen anything much about New Zealand books sales and the fate of small independent booksellers and publishers, other than a comment on radio from Henry Rosenbloom - of Scribe Publishing - that New Zealand publishing was in a complete mess.  But according to the Productivity Commission's backers, everything is just fine across the Tasman.

On the music front we have a better set of arguments to consider.  Last Friday, Mark Seymour, ex-frontman of the Australian band "Hunters and Collectors" had an opinion piece published in "The Age" which argued that a similar scrapping of protection for Australian music publishing in the early 1990s had a devastating effect.  Given he is someone who has been involved in that industry since the late 70s or early 80s I would tend to believe him before many others who tout the opposing viewpoint.

I've never been a fan of fixing something that wasn't broken, especially when that something is vibrant and viable. 

I know I tend to concentrate a lot on this weblog on what has happened in the past, but in this situation I am reminded of C.J. Dennis's letter to "The Argus" newspaper that I reprinted here last year.  In that letter he stated that he wanted a level playing field for Australian authors in American publishing.  His point was that American writers and publishers would get a far better deal in Australia than Australian writers and publishers could ever hope to get in America.  If the Productivity Commission's report is accepted by the Federal Government I fear that the same situation will apply in Australia as well. 

Australian Crime Fiction

Stephen Knight, author of Crime Fiction 1800-2000: Detection, Death Diversity and Continent of Mystery: A Thematic History of Australian Crime Fiction, has written a brief overview of Australian crime fiction for "The Age".  In this essay he name checks such people as Peter Temple, Peter Corris, Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, Marshall Browne and Lucy Sussex amongst many others.  If you're interested in learning more about how the genre is handled in this country then this is a pretty good launching-pad.

Arthur Upfield and the Outback Murders

Back in November last year I reprinted a piece I had found in a newspaper concerning the appearance of Arthur Upfield, the Australian crime writer from the 1920s to the 1960s, as a prosecution witness in a court case in Western Australia.  The Murchsion Murders, as they came to be known, have now been dramatised for a television series which will be broadcast from this Sunday night on ABC Television.

"The Age" newspaper today carries details of the series, the background, the story and the locations.

National Library of Australia Newspaper Digitisation

I've posted a couple of times about the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitsation project and now Gideon Haigh in "The Age" has published a piece about the same project.  His essay delves deeper into the differences between it and the Queensland based Austlit national bibliographic enterprise, and introduces us to some of the top text correctors.

As I've mentioned previously, the digitisation process aims to provide digital text versions of old Australian newspapers via OCR (Optical Character Recognition).  The problem is that the standard OCR process produces a large number of mistakes, so the National Library decided to go down the "open-source route", championed so well by Wikipedia, and allow users to fix the text online.

In the international library community, digitisation of old newspapers so that they can be keyword searched is a supercool area. But the NLA's system would be taking this to Brangelina-like coolness by, politely and sotto voce, soliciting members of the public to participate in ironing out the wrinkles in the digital text. What happened next is pretty damn amazing. "What's that movie?" says Cathy Pilgrim, the program's manager. "Field of Dreams? Well, we built it and they did come."

So they - the Australian public - did. Once word began spreading - among genealogists, amateur historians and online library users - the trickle became a flood. Right now, a community of about 3000 far-flung souls are turning on their computers for up to 50 hours a week and tidying text prepared by optical character recognition (OCR) software, as well as subject tagging and even annotating it.

The most prolific of these contributors is Julie Hempenstall who, as of today, has corrected 185,952 lines.  I reckon I've done a fair bit and I've only corrected some 3,293 lines.  It's a vast difference, and I have no idea how she's done it.

On Depression and Creativity

A couple of weeks back James Bradley, on his "City of Tongues" weblog, reprinted an essay he had written and had published in "The Griffith Review". The title of that essay was "On Depression and Creativity", which was reprinted, in an edited version in "The Age" Review section over the weekend [not currently on the paper's website].

And for the past couple of weeks I've wanted to link to this piece and bring it to your attention. The trouble was that every introduction I thought of came across as insignificant and trite. So I've decided not to bother with one. If you're at all intrigued by the creative process, fascinated by the ways a physical and emotive state can affect that process, and interested in what the current state of the Australian essay has to offer at its best, then I suggest you read it. If you don't, you'll be missing something.

The State of Australian Publishing

Here we go again, I thought, as I started to read this piece in "Overland" magazine about the current state of publishing in Australia. "Louise Swinn takes the temperature of Australian publishing" states the article - lukewarm and getting colder will be the conclusion, I thought. How wrong could I be?

In the course of the essay Swinn talks to such people as Mark Rubbo (ex Miles Franklin Award judge and bookseller of the Readings bookshop chain), Rod Morrison (Picador publisher), author Nick Earls, Sophie Cunningham (editor of "Meanjin"), agent Gaby Naher, and author Toni Jordan. There is a fair degree of concern expressed by all of them that the current Global Financial Crisis might mean a drop in the number of Australian titles being published, but all seem cautiously optimistic. Which is a pleasant surprise.

Digitised Newspapers at the National Library of Australia:

Back in September last year I wrote a post about the National Library of Australia's (NLA) newspaper digitisation project. At the time I thought this a very worthy and exciting initiative which aimed, to make available to the general public, scanned and OCRed [Optical Character Recognition] versions of all Australian out-of-copyright newspaper editions. I've certainly made good use of it by re-printing a number of articles and poems here. Given that it's now been over six months since that initial description I thought it about time to follow-up and see how the project is progressing.

In about mid- to late October last year the project stopped adding new pages to the publicly available depository. I was a bit surprised when this happened as I hadn't actually read enough of the supplementary pages on the project's website to get a firm understanding of the project's timeline. Basically, the initial website was only a pilot. Its aim was to set up the digitisation mechanism and repository, and to engage the public to help fix the scanned pages.

You may recall that I wrote last year about the OCR process which converts the scanned pages into editable text. This is a bit dodgy with old newspapers and you get a lot of misread characters that need to be proof-read and edited. The NLA decided to invite users of the public to correct the pages they read with the aim of gradually improving the final product. I'm not sure how many editors they expected to pick up but I suspect they were quite happy to end up with about 1300 registered users who have corrected 2 million lines of text in 100,000 newspaper articles. The final number of articles made available under the pilot was 367,651 (on approximately 300,000 pages), so something over a quarter have been edited in some way or other. There is no way of telling if all the 100,000 articles have been completely fixed, but at least that number has been looked at and amended, however slightly.

So what of the future? The pilot project has been a success, volunteers have been engaged and are working away, so where to from here? Well, it appears that it was never the intention of the project to tie up NLA personnel on this project indefinitely so a Request For Tender process has been instituted which will result in the appointment of a panel of contractors to undertake the actual work of scanning and digitising - I suspect the editing will be left with the volunteers. That panel should be announced sometime soon, and hopefully the project will "re-boot" and the number of pages available will rapidly increase. The current plan is for the project to have 1.5 million newspaper pages available by the end of 2009, and 4 million pages by the end of 2010. I'll be very pleased if they can reach anything like those numbers.

Books for Bushfire Relief

I'm sure most of us reading this weblog would consider that books constitute a form of food for the soul; as much a requirement of life as clothing, shelter and physical sustenance. The recent bushfires that have ravaged the Victorian countryside have brought out the best in a huge number of people, with charities being overwhelmed by the amount of goods they have received in donation. Yesterday I received an email forwarded to me, by the novelist Susan Johnson, from Tali Lavi, a person in Australia who is attempting to add the donation of books to the list of goods previously mentioned. Here is the note I received:

I hope you and all you know are well.

I've been wondering what I can do for those people who have been affected by the terrible fires that have raged through Victoria. There are so many stories of devastating loss and those fortunate to be left with their lives are lacking any possessions.

You and I both place great value on the power and magic of words so I have a plan which I hope will take off.

It is to approach as many writers as I know and ask them if they would donate some of their own books - those they have written or any they can spare - to those affected. It would be wonderful if they wrote messages in them to make the gesture more personal. (Examples might be, 'Thinking of you', 'Wishing you solace', 'Hoping this book offers some magic', etc.) So this is what I'm asking of you ...

... because all people, but especially children, can find some kind of relief and inspiration in stories. As Horace writes in his Satires, 'Change the name and it's about you, that story.' Change their names (the bushfire victims) and it could very well be us. Hopefully, in turn, our stories and the stories of others will help them to see through the smoke and transport them to other, more beautiful, places than the ones they might occupy now.

At the moment - while the project is in its infancy - I can take the books at my place. My email address is talilavi[at]netspace[dot]net[dot]au.

Writers supporting this project to date include:
Antoni Jach
Sally Rippin
Jacinta Halloran
Rosalie Ham
Ellie Nielson
Jeff Sparrow
Howard Goldenberg
Susan Johnson
Damon Young
Maria Tumarkin
Kate Holden
Christine Darkas

Tali also supplied a mobile number here but I thought it best to leave that off for the present. If you think it would be easier to make contact that way, then write to me (perry[at]middlemiss[dot]org) and I'll pass it along. Sounds like a pretty good cause to me.

The Victorian Bushfires

In writing about the horrific bushfires that have swept through parts of the state of Victoria over the past few days, Jewel Topsfield and Daniella Miletic of "The Age" newspaper had this to say about the devastation of the small town of Marysville:

Scorched earth, a blanket of smoke; a calamity appears to have destroyed civilisation. It's like a film set, maybe for Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel, The Road. On the Maroondah Highway, a shrouded corpse lies on scarred earth, surrounded by police tape. Black dots under trees turn out to be baked animals.
Maybe fiction is the only vehicle that will allow us to grasp the enormity of it all.

[Note: there doesn't appear to be a link on the paper's website to this piece.]

Best Books of the Year 2008 #14: Locus Magazine

This may well be the last of the "Best of 2008" lists given it's now February: but, then again, maybe not.

Locus magazine covers the sf scene (which includes fantasy, horror and that sort of stuff) and has now published its list of recommended reading for 2008. Australian entries I discovered:

SF Novel
Incandescence by Greg Egan

Young Adult Books
Monster Blood Tattoo: Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish
The Two Pearls of Wisdom by Alison Goodman
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Dark Integers and Other Stories by Greg Egan

Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann
Eclipse Two edited by Jonathan Strahan
The Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan

Anthologies - Best of the Year
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Two edited by Jonathan Strahan

Art Books
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

"Crystal Nights" by Greg Egan (Interzone 4/08)
"Lost Continent" by Greg Egan (The Starry Rift)
"Machine Maid" by Margo Lanagan (Extraordinary Engines)
"Beyond the Sea Gate of the Scholar-Pirates of Sarsköe" by Garth Nix (Fast Ships, Black Sails)
"Infestation" by Garth Nix (The Starry Rift)

Short Stories
"The Fooly" by Terry Dowling (Dreaming Again)
"The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross" by Margo Lanagan (Dreaming Again)
"The Goosle" by Margo Lanagan (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
"Ardent Clouds" by Lucy Sussex (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
"Ass-Hat Magic Spider" by Scott Westerfeld (The Starry Rift)

Best Books of the Year 2008 #13 - International Herald Tribune

We're just about through the full set of Best Books of 2008 now. There might be a few dribbling in a bit later: I seem to recall that Locus releases its list of best sf and fantasy in Fenruary or March each year. So this list from the "International Herald Tribune" will be the last for a while, for which you'll probably be eternally grateful. The list includes the following:

THE BOAT. By Nam Le. (Knopf, $22.95.) In the opening story of Le's first collection, a blocked writer succumbs to the easy temptations of "ethnic lit."
BREATH. By Tim Winton. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23.) Surfing offers this darkly exhilarating novel's protagonist an escape from a drab Australian town.
DIARY OF A BAD YEAR. By J. M. Coet­zee. (Viking, $24.95.) Coetzee follows the late career of one Señor C, who, like Coetzee himself, is a South African writer transplanted to Australia and the author of a novel titled "Waiting for the Barbarians."
HIS ILLEGAL SELF. By Peter Carey. (Knopf, $25.) In this enthralling novel, a boy goes underground with a defiant hippie indulging her maternal urge.
OPAL SUNSET: Selected Poems, 1958-2008. By Clive James. (Norton, $25.95.) James, a staunch formalist, is firmly situated in the sociable, plain-spoken tradition that runs from Auden through Larkin.

SHAKESPEARE'S WIFE. By Germaine Greer. (Harper/HarperCollins, $26.95.) With a polemicist's vision and a scholar's patience, Greer sets out to rescue Ann Hathaway from layers of biographical fantasy.

Best Books of the Year 2008 #12 - Various Again Again

I'd guess it's going to be a while before these "Best of the Year" lists finish. Some sites even wait until a month of so into the new year before making their choices - shock, horror.

In "The Independent", Susie Boyt picks The Spare Room by Helen Garner.

"The Washington Post" gave a nod to Breath by Tim Winton, Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee, and His Illegal Self by Peter Carey.

Clive James provides his choices for the "Times Literary Supplement".

And the "HorrorScope" weblog gave its choice of the best Australian Dark Fiction of the year.

The Glugs of Gosh by C.J. Dennis

In case you missed it the first time around, The Glugs of Gosh radio program on "The Book Show", featuring your present interlocutor, was replayed on ABC Radio this morning. Listen and be amazed at how someone, who thinks he might know a little bit about a subject, gets hopelessly lost, and is saved only by the good graces of the program presenter and editors.

2009 Age Short Story Competition

Peggy Frew's story, "Home Visit", has won the 2009 Age Short Story competition. Glenys Osborne, won the second prize, for the second year running, for "A House Was Built Around You While You Slept" and Bronwyn Mehan won third prize for "Frozen Cigarettes". The winner was published in the print edition of "The Age" over this past weekend - no sign of it online as yet.

Major Australian Literary Anniversaries in 2009

Births in 1909
Mavis Thorp Clark (d. 1999)
Joyce Dingwell (d. 1997)
Ronald McKie (d. 1991)
Osmar E. White (d. 1991)

Deaths in 1909
Emily Mary Barton (b. 1817)
George Essex Evans (b. 1863)
W.T. Goodge (b. 1862)
Stefan von Kotze (b. 1869)

First Publication in 1909
The Barb of an Arrow by Roy Bridges
Fugitives from Fortune by Ethel Turner
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse by Bertram Stevens
"The Meeting of Sighs" by John Shaw Neilson
Some Everyday Folk and Dawn by Miles Franklin
"To Sydney" by Louise Mack

Births in 1959
Venero Armanno
Gabrielle Carey
Bill Congreve
Stephen Dedman
Michael Heald
Michael Heyward
Philip Hodgins (d. 1995)
Andy Kissane
Mike Ladd
Sophie Masson
Paddy O'Reilly
Terri-Ann White

Deaths in 1959
Charles Barrett (b. 1879)
Vance Palmer (b. 1885)
Mervyn Skipper (b. 1886)

First Publication in 1959
The Big Fellow by Vance Palmer
The Big Smoke by D'Arcy Niland
The Blue Crane by Ian Mudie
Bony and the Black Virgin by Arthur W. Upfield
The Dame by Carter Brown
The Darkness Outside by George Johnston
The Devil's Advocate by Morris West
"Ghost Wanted: Young, Willing" by Bruce Dawe
"In Midland Where the Trains Go By" by Dorothy Hewett
Lantana Lane by Eleanor Dark
"Late Tutorial" by Vincent Buckley
"Leopard-Skin" by Douglas Stewart
"Man Friday" by A.D. Hope
"Prize-Giving" by Gwen Harwood
Seven Emus by Xavier Herbert
"Suburban Song" by Elizabeth Riddell
Walkabout by James Vance Marshall and Donald Gordon Payne
"Waterfall at Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand" by David Rowbotham
Young Man of Talent by George Turner

Forthcoming Books for 2009

The following is a list of forthcoming books for 2009. Not a lot planned for January that I can find.


  • Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett (F)
  • The Unscratchables by Anthony O'Neill (F)
  • The Hunter's Wife by Katherine Scholes (F)
  • The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer
  • Shots by Don Walker


  • Move to Strike by Sydney Bauer (F)
  • Valley of Grace by Marion Halligan (F)
  • A Most Immoral Woman by Linda Jaivin (F)
  • Sideways by Patrick O'Neill
  • 60 Classic Australian Poems edited by Geoff Page (P)
  • The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Three edited by Jonathan Strahan (F)


  • Waiting Room by Gabrielle Carey
  • The Lost Life by Steven Carroll (F)
  • Look Who's Morphing by Tom Cho (F)
  • B by Wendy Hamer (F)
  • The Marriage Club by Kate Legge (F)
  • Ransom by Davod Malouf (F)
  • The Women in Black by Madeleine St John (F)


  • Escape by Anna Fienberg (F)
  • Reunion by Andrea Goldsmith (F)
  • Wild Spirit by Annette Henderson
  • Surrender by Mary Moody
  • The Red Highway by Nicholas Rothwell
  • The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir
  • Astropolis: Book 3: The Grand Conjunction by Sean Williams (F)


  • The Bath Fugues by Brian Castro (F)
  • The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larson (F)
  • The Dark Mirror by Barry Maitland (F)


  • Death & the Running Patterer by Robin Adair
  • The True Story of Butterfish by Nick Earls (F)
  • The Book of Rapture by Nikki Gemmell (F)
  • Literary Melbourne edited by Stephen Grimwade (F)
  • This is How by M.J. Hyland (F)
  • Revolt of the Pendulum by Clive James
  • The River Wife by Heather Rose (F)


  • The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave (F)
  • Last Night on Earth by Patrick Cullen (F)
  • Oceanic by Greg Egan (F)
  • Shooting the Dog by Peter Goldsworthy (F)
  • The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose (F)
  • Barley Patch by Gerald Murnane (F)
  • Russian Red by Malla Nunn (F)
  • Truth by Peter Temple (F)


  • The Black Russian by Lenny Bartulin (F)
  • High Stakes by Emma Boling (F)
  • Bad Behaviour by Liz Byrski (F)
  • Piano Lessons by Anna Goldworthy
  • Cold Justice by Katherine Howell (F)
  • My Hundred Lovers by Susan Johnson (F)
  • The People's Train By Tom Keneally (F)
  • The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy (F)
  • Manning Clark: A Life by Mark McKenna
  • Below the Styx Michael Meehan (F)


  • Sons of the Rumour by David Foster (F)
  • Five Greatest Warriors by Matthew Reilly (F)
  • Siblings edited by Charlotte Wood (F)


  • The Umbrella Club by David Brooks (F)
  • I Blame Duchamp: My Life's Adventures by Edmund Capon
  • Growing Up by Paul Carter
  • The Dangerous Dance of Danny Dunne by Bryce Courtenay (F)
  • Why You Are Australian: A Letter to my Children by Nikki Gemmell
  • Unreliable Memoirs V: Prelude to the Aftemath by Clive James
  • Opal Sunset by Clive James (P)
  • The Mind and Times of Reg Mombassa by Murray Waldren
  • Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusack (F)


  • Bloodborn by Katherine Fox (F)

Entries on this list are taken from "The Age" and Locus.
F- Fiction P - Poetry

2008 A Year in Australian Literature


  • One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke is announced as an honoree of the 2008 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
  • The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski wins the Aurealis Award for Best Australian SF Novel of 2008


  • Shaun Tan is awarded "Album of the Year" at Angouleme, one of the world's biggest comic book festivals, for his book The Arrival
  • His Illegal Self by Peter Carey released
  • Novelist Sophie Cunningham is named as the new editor of Meanjin
  • "The Bulletin" magazine publishes its last issue, the first was in 1880
  • The Australia Council for the Arts announces Christopher Koch and Gerald Murnane as recipients of its 2008 emeritus writers awards


  • The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald wins the main fiction award of the 2008 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature
  • The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll wins the Best Novel award in the South-East Asia and South Pacific region of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee wins the Best First Novel award for the same region
  • Saturn Returns by Sean Williams wins the Best Novel award at the 2008 Ditmars
  • "The Monthly" magazine starts a series of interviews with Australian authors under their "Slow TV" banner
  • Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster wins the inaugural Barbara Jeffries Award


  • Helen Garner publishes The Spare Room, her first novel in 15 years
  • the judges for the inaugural Prime Minister's Literary Awards are announced
  • God for the Killing by Kain Massin wins the 2008 ABC Fiction Award for best unpublished manuscript
  • Napoleon: The Path To Power 1769-1799 by Philip Dwyer and These Few Lines: A Convict Story - The Lost Lives Of Myra & William Sykes by Graham Seal are announced as joint winners of the 2008 National Biography Award
  • the Australian Federal Government announces funding for a new chair of Australian Literature based at the University of Western Australia


  • the 2008 Sydney Writers' Festival runs from May 19th to 25th
  • Clunes, Victoria, holds its second Booktown weekend
  • Tim Winton publishes Breath, his first novel in seven years
  • Nights in the Asylum by Carol Lefevre wins the 2008 Nita Kibble Award, and The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee wins the Dobbie encouragement award
  • the sponsors of the Man Booker Prize announce a special award to commemorate the prize's 40th anniversary
  • the winners of the 2008 NSW Premier's Literary Awards are announced:
    Christina Stead Prize for Fiction - The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser;
    Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction - Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica by Tom Griffiths
  • Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah wins the 2008 Kathleen Mitchell Award for Young Writers
  • Max Barry, Belinda Castles, Jessica Davidson, and Jessica White are named 2008 Best Young Australian Novelists by "The Sydney Morning Herald"


  • Nam Le publishes The Boat, his first collection of short stories, to great acclaim
  • the 2008 Australian Book Industry Awards are announced, with People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks winning the major Book of the Year award
  • Shaun Tan wins an award in the 2008 Boston Globe Horn Book Awards, titled "Special Citation, for excellence in graphic storytelling", for his graphic novel The Arrival
  • Steven Carroll wins the 2008 Miles Franklin Award for his novel The Time We Have Taken


  • the first Crime and Justice Festival in held in Melbourne over the weekend of July 19-20. As it happens the Melbourne Festival of Travel Writing is held over the same dates
  • the Man Booker Prize Longlist is announced, with two Australians on the list - Michelle de Kretser and Steve Toltz. Ex-Australian resident Aravind Adiga also makes the list


  • Australia wins the right to host the 2010 World SF convention in Melbourne
  • The Ghost's Child by Sonya Hartnett is named Book of the Year for Older Readers in the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year awards; Dragon Moon by Carole Wilkinson is named Book of the Year for Younger Readers
  • a number of previously unknown Banjo Paterson poems are found in an old cash book dating back to the Boer War
  • UNESCO names Melbourne as its second City of Literature, after Edinburgh received the first such award in 2004
  • "The Age" Book of the Year Awards are announced: Fiction - Breath by Tim Winton; Non-Fiction - American Journeys by Don Watson; Poetry - Not Finding Wittgenstein by J.S. Harry


  • the Ned Kelly Awards are presented: Novel - Shatter by Michael Robotham; First Novel - The Low Road by Chris Womersley; Non-Fiction - Red Centre, Dead Heart by Evan McHugh; and Lifetime Achievement - Marele Day
  • Duet by Kimberley Freeman is announced as the winner of the Long Category section of the 2008 Australian Romantic Book of the Year awards
  • the winners of the 2008 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards are announced:
    The Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction - The Spare Room by Helen Garner;
    The Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-fiction - The Ferocious Summer: Palmer's Penguins and the Warming of Antarctica by Meredith Hooper;
    The CJ Dennis Prize for Poetry - Press Release by Lisa Gorton
  • the shortlist for the 2008 Man Booker Prize is announced with A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, and The White Tiger by ex-Australian resident Aravind Adiga among the six novels listed
  • the inaugural Prime Minister's Literary Awards are announced:
    Fiction - The Zookeeper's War by Stephen Conte;
    Non-Fiction - Ochre and Rust: Artefacts and Encounters on Australian Frontiers by Philip Jones
  • the winners of the 2008 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards are announced:
    Fiction - The Spare Room by Helen Garner;
    Non-fiction - Muck by Craig Sherborne;
    Poetry - Typewriter Music by David Malouf


  • the Davitt awards for crime fiction by women are presented by Sisters in Crime:
    Fiction - Frantic by Katherine Howell;
    YA Fiction - The Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Mandy Sayer;
    True Crime - Killing Jodie by Janet Fife-Yeomans
  • the 2008 Man Booker Prize is presented to ex-Australian resident Aravind Adiga for his novel White Tiger


  • the winners of the 2008 NSW Premier's History Awards are announced:
    Australian History Prize - Vietnam: the Australian War by Paul Ham;
    Community and Regional History Prize - Sacred Waters: the Story of the Blue Mountains Gully Traditional Owners by Dianne Johnson;
    General History Prize - The Politics of War: Race, Class and Conflict in Revolutionary Virginia by Michael A McDonnell
  • Nam Le is announced as the winner of the 2008 Dylan Thomas Prize, for his collection of short stories, The Boat
  • John Romeril, Melbourne playwright and screenwriter, is announced as the winner of the 2009 Patrick White Award
  • David Malouf is announced as the winner of the 2008 Australia-Asia Literary Award for his short story collection, The Complete Stories


  • the death of Melbourne poet Dorothy Porter is announced
  • Caro Llewellyn, a former director of the Sydney Writers' Festival and PEN World Voices Festival in New York, is appointed as director of the new Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne

Best Books of the Year 2008 #11 - Various Again

"The LA Times" included The Boat by Nam Le in its fiction picks for 2008: "A diverse debut story collection that traverses the globe and follows characters who are in transit, people who, for one reason or another, have come unmoored."

The paper also chose Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury in the Children's Picture Book category.

For "Granta" magazine, Diana Antill chose The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville ("It's published in the UK next February and has excited me more than any novel I've read since those of W. G. Sebald.")

The Australian newspapers also get into the act with "The Sydney Morning Herald" and "The Age" releasing theirs.

Best Books of the Year 2008 #10 - Various

The "Salt Lake City Weekly" has chosen His Illegal Self by Peter Carey as one of its fiction picks of 2008.

John Picacio picks Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia as one of his best genre-related books of 2008 for the SF Signal website.

Nam Le, author of The Boat, chooses his best books of 2008 for "The Millions" weblog.

And Nam Le himself appears on Edward Champion's list of Top Ten Books of 2008.

Breath by Tim Winton is on "The Economist"'s list of best fiction of 2008.

Best Books of the Year 2008 #9 - "The Sunday Times"

"The Sunday Times" chose three Australian novels in its "year of fantastic fiction".

Breath by Tim Winton: "Once again, he displays his exceptional power at conveying intense physical sensation while subtly exploring emotional and psychological complexities."
The Spare Room by Helen Garner: "This novel's extraordinary feat is to be at once affecting, involving and sharply funny..."
His Illegal Self by Peter Carey: "Nicely gauged satire, ebullient narrative drive and headily sensuous writing make the book irresistibly compelling."

Best Books of the Year 2008 #8 - Readings

"Readings" is one of the largest independent book sellers in Melbourne, with stores in Hawthorn (my local), Malvern, Carlton, St Kilda and Port Melbourne. Management and staff in the stores have put together their lists of the best books of 2008. It's pretty comprehensive, covering everything from poetry to memoir to fiction to biography. As you might expect there is quite a large Australian component. You should be able to find something here to buy as a present or to read over summer. If not, then I think you might be in trouble.

Best Books of the Year 2008 #7 - "New York Times" Again

I'm not sure why the "New York Times" didn't include these children's books in with their earlier list of "Best Books of 2008". Nor, for that matter, why I missed them earlier. Anyway... Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury: "A witty and winsome look at babies around the world that has a toe-tapping refrain: the words sound easy and familiar, as though they have been handed down to children forever. And the story ends with a pitch-perfect moment: one little baby who is 'mine, all mine.'"

Best Books of the Year 2008 #6 - "New York Times"

The "New York Times" picks its best 100 books each year. The Australian books on their list this year include:

Fiction & Poetry
The Boat by Nam Le: "In the opening story of Le's first collection, a blocked writer succumbs to the easy temptations of 'ethnic lit.'"
Breath by Tim Winton: "Surfing offers this darkly exhilarating novel's protagonist an escape from a drab Australian town."
Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee: "Coetzee follows the late career of one Señor C, who, like Coetzee himself, is a South African writer transplanted to Australia and the author of a novel titled Waiting for the Barbarians."
His Illegal Self by Peter Carey: "In this enthralling novel, a boy goes underground with a defiant hippie indulging her maternal urge."
Opal Sunset: Selected Poems, 1958-2008 by Clive James: "James, a staunch formalist, is firmly situated in the sociable, plain-spoken tradition that runs from Auden through Larkin."

Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer: "With a polemicist's vision and a scholar's patience, Greer sets out to rescue Ann Hathaway from layers of biographical fantasy."

Best Books of the Year 2008 #5 - "Kirkus Reviews"

"Kirkus Reviews", one of the major reviewing outlets in the USA, has released its list of Best Children's Books of 2008 [PDF file]. Included on the list is: The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War I by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frané Lessac.

Best Books of the Year 2008 #4 - "New Statesman"

The "New Statesman" magazine asks contributors and critics to pick their best of the year. No indication is given whether all contributed to the magazine during the year, or whether all are critics or... John Lanchester chose People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.

Best Books of the Year 2008 #3 - "The Spectator"

"The Spectator" magazine uses the technique of asking a number of their reviewers to pick their best and worst of the year. It works. Rupert Christiansen picked Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer, as it was new in paperback this year. "I loved it -- a daringly original piece of scholarship and speculation which makes one rethink received suppositions and opens up fascinating new possibilities."

Best Books of the Year 2008 #2 - "Publisher's Weekly"

"Publisher's Weekly", from the US, usually puts out quite a comprehensive Best Books list each year. The Australian books I've found - and I should warn you that there is always a good chance I've missed something - are as follows.

The Boat, Nam Le (Knopf): "The stories in Le's stunning debut collection cover a vast geographic territory and are filled with exquisitely painful and raw moments of revelation, captured in an economical style as deft as it is sure."
Breath, Tim Winton (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): "Two daredevil Australian teens get involved with a dangerous surfer (and his more dangerous wife) in this taut story of death, life, pleasure and thrill-seeking."

Children's Picture Books
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Mem Fox, illus. by Helen Oxenbury (Harcourt): "In a paean to babies around the world, Fox's rhymes feel as if they always existed in our collective consciousness and were simply waiting to be written down."

Children's Fiction
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (Knopf): "Dense, atmospheric prose holds readers to a cautious pace in an often dark fantasy that explores the savage and gentlest sides of human nature and how they coexist."

Best Books of the Year 2008 #1 - Amazon

Mid-November and the Best Books of the Year entries start up again. I thought this was pretty early, but a brief check in the 2007 archives shows that I made the first such posting in that year on November 12. We'll call that even.

In the Science Fiction and Fantasy category, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan comes in at number 4.
In the Comics & Graphic Novels category, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard by Eddie Campbell is listed at number 10.
Under the Editor's Picks: Top 100 Books, The Boat by Nam Le sits at number 29, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (yes, I'm still thinking about whether this one should be included here) at number 32, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan at number 71, and The House at Riverton by Kate Morton at number 90.

Nobel Prize Odds

In Australia the Australian Rules Football season is over for another year, the National Rugby League grand final is this coming weekend (Melbourne vs Sydney, sweeeeet) and then we drop headlong into the Spring Racing Carnival. So we all start thinking about betting and odds, and quinellas and trifectas.

Which leads me to the news that Ladbrokes is running a book on this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. Outright favourite is Claudio Magris (yes, I shrugged as well), the Italian novelist, at 3/1, with our man Les Murray on the 8th line of betting at 10/1; Peter Carey sits at 40/1, and David Malouf at 66/1. The laureate will be named on or about October 16th.

[Thanks to The Literary Saloon for the link.]

Digitised Newspapers at the National Library of Australia 2

As a follow-up to my piece about the newspaper digitisation project being undertaken by the National Library of Australia, I've been tracking the number of pages the project has scanned. On 12th September that number was 207,172, and as of this morning the figure is 294,181. A touch under three weeks and a touch under 90,000 pages. According to the project schedule, the aim is to hit 500,000 by the end of 2008, and 4 million by the end of 2010. I'll be checking back in from time to time to see how they're going, but on current rates they should hit their end of year target without too much trouble.

Exposing Untruths

After exposing the fraud of Norma Khouri's memoir Forbidden Love back in 2004, Malcolm Knox now looks at another memoir of suffering, Cola's Story by Cola Bilkuei.

After the Khouri affair, publishers promised to investigate their authors' backgrounds. But a publisher's task in checking on its author is very different from that of the journalist in uncovering a fraud. The publisher has little incentive to unveil a lie. The publisher is unwilling to commit scarce finances to a job that may confirm the author was trustworthy after all, leaving the publisher with a credible book that has sucked in too many resources to make a profit.

With Cola, I was asked to do the checking. It was, of course, impossible to verify exact dates from deep inside his African childhood. Most of his family, including his mother, two brothers and two sisters, died from war and disease. All he has left is his father and Monyleck, who live in Sudan and speak no English. Short of going to Sudan, there were limits on how much I could verify there. If Cola was a liar in the Norma Khouri class, he could line me up to speak to Sudanese impostors who would cover for him.

2008 "Australian Book Review" Poetry Prize

The "Australian Book Review" Poetry Prize, worth $4000 plus publication in the magazine, is back on. Entries close on 10th December 2008. To quote from the press release:

"The guidelines and application form are now available on the ABR website: Poets must reside in Australia or be Australian citizens living overseas. Each entry must be a single poem of no more than 100 lines. Multiple entries are permitted, and all poems will be judged anonymously. A shortlist comprising a maximum of six poems will be announced and those poems published in the March 2009 issue of ABR. The winner will be announced in the April 2009 issue."

Digitised Newspapers at the National Library of Australia

David, at the "Sarsaparilla" weblog, has alerted me to the Australian National Library's newspaper digitisation project. According to the website:

The National Library of Australia, in collaboration the Australian State and Territory libraries, has commenced a program to digitise out of copyright newspapers. We are creating a free online service that will enable full-text searching of newspaper articles. This will include newspapers published in each state and territory from the 1800s to the mid-1950s, when copyright applies. The first Australian newspaper, published in Sydney in 1803, is included in the Program.
As someone who looks at a lot of very old newspapers I can only applaud this initiative, as it will certainly make my personal projects a lot easier in the future. At present, only a very small number of newspaper issues have been digitised but that number will continue to grow. So far it looks like the project has picked one or two newspapers in each Australian state, and chosen only a few contiguous years.

Part of the difficulty here concerns the availability of the material and whether or not it is out of copyright. The paper chosen from Victoria is "The Argus" and thus far the project has digitised each edition from 1915-1925 and from 1945. Given that this paper published 6 editions a week - with the possible exceptions being Good Friday, ANZAC Day and Christmas Day - there are approximately 310 editions a year. The early years of the paper, which was printed in broadsheet format, contained 8 pages per weekday and 16 pages on a Saturday. Not a lot by today's standards, but you have to see the material to understand how much text they were able to squeeze into those pages: advertisements were nearly all of the "classified/textual" variety and pictures were almost non-existent.

Most of the originals of these old papers in libraries are bound into large ledger style volumes, so scanning in the central gutter - the part of the paper that is closest to the spine of the books - is fairly difficult without breaking open the books and laying the pages flat. Some modern photocopiers scan an opened volume by tilting the books during the process to get full access to the pages. But this presupposes that the central gutter is wide enough to allow for this. Modern books are formatted with the fore-knowledge that the pages would be bound between covers; newspapers had no such knowledge and the gutter margin, in many cases, is very narrow. By the look of the "Argus" pages here I suspect they have utilised microfilm copies of the papers rather than the original sheets.

There is both good and bad in that approach. Good because you can actually get the scanner to see all of the page, and bad if the only film you have available is one that has seen a lot of use. Microfilm readers are notorious for scatching the film, which, when copied using any form of photograph or photocopying process, leaves long black streak marks across the final image. This is merely a nuisance when it comes to reading that image, but a hindrance when the digitised image is optically scanned and run though a character recognition process as it is here. For that is the final aim of this whole project: not only to make photo images of the newspaper pages available to the world at large, but also to convert the embedded text into editable files. This is a wonderful idea of course, because it makes available the full text of this material, not just a graphic image.

I've transcribed a number of pieces from old newspapers and magazines over the years. Most of it poetry but, more recently, a number of prose pieces that I've posted here. This has involved a complete re-typing of the material because I found out, fairly early, that basic Optical Character Recognition (OCR) run through a basic scanner was - well - pretty crap. I seemed to spend longer fixing the material than I would have if I typed it out straight from the start. The NLA's OCR results tend to be of a different breed all together. And of interest is the fact that you can register as an editor on the NLA website and actually correct the scanned result of the text yourself. For example, on Tuesday 21st November 1916, "The Argus" printed the following:

Mr. C..J. Dennis, author of "Tile Senti- mental Bloke" and "The Moods of Ginger Mick," has resigned from the position of secretary to Senator Russell, .Assistant Minister in the Federal Cabinet. ' He in- tends to retire to the country for 1 time to give his undivided attention to the produc- tion of another book.
Or so the scanned version showed. This was pretty easy to convert to a corrected version:
Mr. C.J. Dennis, author of "The Senti- mental Bloke" and "The Moods of Ginger Mick," has resigned from the position of secretary to Senator Russell, Assistant Minister in the Federal Cabinet. He in- tends to retire to the country for a time to give his undivided attention to the production of another book.
You could almost do that without the original text being handy.

And then sometimes you get something like this:

Sir Herbert Wallen, professor of poetry at Oxfoul, read an inlet c-ting papct on "Oversea« Poetrv" nt the Jtovnl Colonial Institute on Wcdnesdiy He said that Aus- tralian poetr} was still I irgely "open jur," anti consisted of poems ot men, action, nnd movement Sir Hcibcit Warien pud n tribute to the woik ot ]'--cx Hvuns, Arthur Adams, anil John Sandes amongst Hie younger generation Ile jaitl that Ml jCvuns's "Commonwcilth Ode" was a "laureate piece" worthv to live Although he lind been startled bv the slang used by U J. Dennis, his woik was leal pootiy.
Which has a sort of poetry all of its own.

A friend told me recently that New Zealand is way ahead of Australia in terms of digitising its newspapers, so its good to see us starting to catch up. I'll be using this site as a major resource over the coming years, and you'll start to see some of the results of that here quite soon.

Melbourne Writers' Festival Reports 2

The 2008 Melbourne Writers' Festival is now finished and the second round of reports have been appearing.

Hackpacker laments the way bloggers were put down at the Festival. This goes the the very nature of thesetype of Festivals. The problem with charging a ticket price for each session means that the general audience wants to see "names" on the panel items. And, to be frank, so would I at $17 or so a pop. But the consequence of this is that you get a general consistency of message. Where are the articulate amateurs? Nowhere to be seen I suspect.

Angela Meyer kept bumping into authors at the Festival - which is hardly surprising - only to have them seemingly avoid her.

More Readings' photos.

Estelle, from "3000 Books", worked on a number of sessions but was still able to give her "best-of", etc, lists.

Sue Burszytynski concluded that YA and genre writers didn't get a lot of exposure.

And, finally, Readings gives the list of the bestselling books of the Festival.

The "Guardian"'s World Literature Tour

The Guardian's World Tour of Literature is heading to Australia. Basically the newspaper runs it as a means of introducing a country's literature to its readers by requesting suggestions about the best books to read.

I made a suggestion a few years back with my list of 10 "Essential Modern Australian Novels", and kimbofo also put forward her proposal for "Favourite Novels about Australia" about the same time. There are only a couple of overlaps between those two lists. Failing those two there is always Jane Gleeson-White's list of 50 Australian classics. That compilation is more emcompassing as it includes poems, short stories, non-fiction and biographies, rather than the straight list of novels that Kim and I came up with. In any event, go have a look at the Guardian site and enter your suggestions.

I'm interested to see the final results even if they may be skewed somewhat to more recent Australian works. By the way, the original article features a photo taken in Melbourne of an old W-class tram. And it looks like the shot was taken from the middle of Swanston Street - looking south towards the Shrine - with cars in it. How old? Probably twenty years. You'd think they'd try to find something a little more up-to-date. But maybe that's an indication of the suggestions they are looking for. And the first suggestion: "I think joining world literature to Australia is a very good idea." Oh dear. You can just tell what the tone of the conversation is going to be like.

Melbourne Writers' Festival Reports

As the Melbourne Writers' Festival moves though its first week a number of bloggers have been writing up their experiences. Judith Ridge, of "The ::New:: Misrule" weblog dropped into three schools' sessions.

Jo Case, on the Readings bookshop weblog went along to see Louise Asher in conversation with Susan Johnson.

And further to the Readings coverage of the MWF are these photos from the first weekend.

Karen Chisholm, of the "Australian Crime Fiction" weblog has a few friends staying with her for the Festival. Which has probably made it difficult for her to post about anything. I suspect she'll be at the Ned Kelly Awards tonight so we might see something out of that.

Margo Lanagan has been and gone, appearing on a few panels earlier in the week; one at least that Judith Ridge went to.

Estelle, from "3000 Books" had a busy first Sunday.

"Hackpacker" went along to see David Sedaris, and Angela was interested in Augusten Burroughs.

The "Speakeasy" weblog mentioned the launch of a new edition of The Australian Writers Marketplace at the Festival.

And Mark Lawrence wonders why the MWF doesn't have "official" lit-bloggers covering the events as other Australian festivals have done.

Upcoming Literary Talks

Debra Adelaide and Toni Jordan will appear at a writers' dinner in Goondiwindi, Queensland, on August 1st.

Lonely Planet writer and regular contributer to "The Age", Victoria Kyriakopoulos will speak at the Friends of Nunawading Library Literary Lunch on July 30th.

A number of writers will feature in literary lunches associated with the Tasmania Book Prize, during the "Ten Days on the Island Festival", held from 27th March to 5th April 2009.

Sheryl Gwyther, author of Secrets of Eromanga and Children's Literature Trust fellow, will be farewelled at a literary lunch on Friday, 29th August, in Burnside, South Australia.

Author and photographer Holly Kerr Forsyth will talk about her book The Constant Gardener at Pialligo Estate, ACT, on Friday 19th September.

Jane Gleeson-White, author of Australian lassics, will be in Port Macquarie, NSW, on Friday 5th September.

Tobbie Puttock, author of Italian Local, will be in Palm Beach, NSW, on Wednesday 6th August, and Balmoral, NSW, on Thursday 7th August.

Lee Tulloch, author of The Woman in the Lobby, will speak at dinner in Camberwell, Victoria, on Wednesday 3rd September.

Crime Fiction in Australia

As we lead into the Crime and Justice festival this coming weekend here in Melbourne, Liz Porter writes about the state of the genre in Australia for "The Age". She talks to Peter Temple, Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, and Jarad Henry.

Preserving Literary Collections

For at least the past twenty years, and maybe even as long as thirty, I've been a party to discussions relating to what could or should be done to help preserve the large number of private science fiction collections in this country. Probably more than any other group of readers and enthusiasts, science fiction and fantasy fans tend to collect and hoard: everything from bookmarks and convention membership badges to club flyers and movie figurines. Some of this ephemera is quite rare and valuable, and helps provide a view of the times in which we have lived. [From somewhere I have this memory of reading a report about a group of Sydney sf fans who were interrogated during the Second World War about the amateur sf magazines they were receiving in the mail from overseas. It seems some of the slang and acronyms were being investigated as possible wartime code.]

So those conversations have continued on and off over the years, generally at sf conventions and generally after a noted sf collector had died. There was nowhere in Australia that allowed for a single point of contact, somewhere to deposit collections where people could be sure they would be looked after. A few universities have taken collections - long-term fan Leigh Edmonds deposited his fanzine collection with a university in Western Australia - but this was haphazard and uncoordinated.

Now, it seems a group in Australia has set up an organisation to work towards this preservation aim. Long-term plans are in place and now all that needs to be done is to raise the capital to achieve their goals. It is possible to join the group to support the cause, and that's something I'll be attempting to do as soon as I can.

Slow TV Revisited

It's been a few months since I last mentioned Slow TV, the video podcast from "The Monthly" magazine, and quite a few new videos have been made available.

Recent entries of interest include:
Luke Davies discussing God of Speed
Deborah Robertson from Adelaide Writers' Week
Tim Winton in conversation with Martin Flanagan
Christos Tsiolkas from the Sydney Writers' Festival
Helen Garner from the Sydney Writers' Festival
Kate Jennings in conversation with Eliot Perlman
Michelle de Kretser in conversation with Gail Jones
David Marr and Gideon Haigh discuss journalism.

2008 Best Young Novelists

Each year "The Sydney Morning Herald" present a list of the authors they consider to be the best young novelists in the country. This year the judges - Matt Buchanan, Emily Maguire and Jenny Tabakoff - have chosen the following: Max Barry, Jennifer Government and Company Belinda Castles, The River Baptists Jessica Davidson, What Does Blue Feel Like? Jessica White, A Curious Intimacy

Australian Poetry on the Radio

I've been meaning to write about the Australian Poetry series that was featured on ABC Radio National's "The Book Show" from May 12 to May 16. I kept putting it off until a comment today led me to the realisation that I had inadvertently included the wrong date in a previous mention of this series, in particular the episode in which I appear. Anyway, hie yourself over to the program's website and listen to the podcast of each program. Lyn Gallacher and the program's producers have done a wonderful job. For the life of me I can't figure out who is speaking about C.J. Dennis using my words. Doesn't sound like me at all. My wife picked it straight away somehow. The programs featured:
"Five Bells" by Kenneth Slessor
"Rockpool" by Judith Wright
"The Glugs of Gosh" by C.J. Dennis
"The Continuance of Poetry" by Rosemary Dobson
"The Death of the Bird" by A.D. Hope

Australian Novelists Gaining Recognition?

Caroline Baum, presenter of the Talking Books television program on the Foxtel channel Ovation, provides on overview of the current Australian literary landscape for readers of "The Times". She starts by contrasting the latest novels from Tim Winton and Helen Garner before moving on to mention Michelle de Kretser, Julia Leigh, Charlotte Wood, Markus Zusack, Richard Flanagan and Peter Temple, amongst others.

"Patrick White: The Final Chapter"

"Monthly" magazine has freed up its April 2008 content which allows us all now to read "Patrick White: The Final Chapter" by David Marr. An excellent essay. You may find the novels a bit hard to get through, but the life, and after, is fascinating.

Victorian Booktown

The 2008 Clunes Booktown event was held over the weekend of May 3-4. "The Age" ran a report on what was to be expected at this year's gathering, ABC Radio's "Book Show" was there and spoke to author John Marsden, "The Brisbane Times" ran a feature, and "The Courier" out of Ballarat reported favourably on the whole event.

On the blog front:

  • Beth Driscoll found the books a bit underwhelming
  • Hackpacker has a "great day"
  • Chocolate Cobwebs combined a visit to Clunes with another stop at a bookshop near Castlemaine
  • The Book Grocer sold books in Clunes and promises a follow-up to this post
  • Caroline took along a friend and found a friendly atmosphere
It sounds like the weekend was a great event. I just hope my life's under enough control by this time next year for me to go along.

Political Memoir

Ex-Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, has reportedly been offered a large advance (some say high six figures) for his political memoir. On ABC radio's PM program last night it was revealed that he was writing this book in collaboration with his father-in-law, Peter Coleman, a former NSW state Liberal leader, federal MP and editor of "The Bulletin" and "Quadrant". And now, a report in "The Australian" has ANU academic Wayne Errington, who co-wrote last year's controversial John Winston Howard: The Biography, stating that Costello would be a more interesting subject. Some commentators believe this might be a push by Costello to regain the Federal Liberal leadership. I can't see that: Costello could have the leadership if he wanted to. All he'd need to do is put his hand up. On the other hand, Stephen Mayne, of fame, said on ABC radio yesterday that he thought Costello might be writing it now when he had the use of taxpayer funded staff and offices, and that his aim to mainly to fill in time till the right job offer landed on his desk. That sounds far more likely to me.

There is more on this story here.

More Literary Videos

Grouped together under the title "Slow TV" is a set of streaming videos from "The Monthly" magazine. This set includes the David Malouf videos linked to the other day, plus such people as Don Watson with Tom Keneally, Peter Carey, and Siri Hustvedt with J.M. Coetzee. These all appear to have been taken from the Adelaide Writers' Week. That's under the "Culture" heading. There are also videos under Politics and Society, featuring such people as Robert Manne, Mungo MacCallum and Shane Maloney.

Upcoming Books

Abbey's Bookshop brings us news that Tales from Outer Suburbia, Shaun Tan's follow-up to The Arrival, will be published in June. You can have a sneak peek at the book cover. Outer Suburbia, Outer Limits. Yes, I can see the comparison. The publisher's page allows you to view an extract from the work [PDF file].

The long awaited new novel by Helen Garner, The Spare Room, will be published by Text in early April. The publishers have a funny webiste which doesn't allow me to link directly into the novel's page. The link shown here will get you to the publisher's front page, once there click on the link, "Upcoming Titles", at the top of the left-hand column.

"Boomerang Books" has a pre-release review of Tim Winton's upcoming novel Breath. The verdict: "This is as powerful and heart-rending a story about youth as you'll find. It will stay with you."

Another View of Writers' Week

Stephen Orr is not happy with the way the Adelaide Writers' Week is being run and lays out his arguments on the ABC website. Basically he believes that the programming revolves solely around the big names imported from overseas to the detriment of the upcoming local talent.

Writers' festivals do have the job of exposing locals to a wide range of the world's best writers - in this case, Carey, McEwan, Germaine Greer and dozens of others. But they also offer the opportunity to celebrate our own writing culture, to tell our own stories and populate our pages with recognisable characters; to ask the difficult questions, to say, 'Hey, are we really a generous, giving people? Are we a bit dim, obsessed with hamstrings and the sound of V8 engines?'

[Thanks to Sean Williams for the link.]

2008 Adelaide Writers' Week

The 2008 Adelaide Writers' Week is well under way and you can follow what's been happening by reading Kerrie's accounts on her "Mysteries in Paradise" weblog.

The Best of the Booker

As we hit the 40th anniversary of the Man Booker prize (previously just the simple Booker), the prize trustees have announced a prize for the best book out of all the previous winners. A similar prize was awarded in 1993 (on the 25th anniversary) and the winner at that time was Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie.

The Australian entrants in the Best of the Booker, with odds as released by Ladbrooks:

14/1 - True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2001)
25/1 - Schindler's Ark by Tom Keneally (1982)
25/1 - Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988)
33/1 - Disgrace by J.M Coetzee (1999)
40/1 - Life and Times of Michael K. by J.M Coetzee (1983)

For the record, Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie is a 4/1 favourite this time round.

2009 Clarion South Writers' Workshop

Applications are now open for entry to the 2009 Clarion South science fiction and fantasy writers' workshop. The scheduled teachers are as follows:

Week 1: Sean Williams
Week 2: Marianne de Pierres
Week 3: Margo Lanagan
Week 4: Jack Dann
Week 5: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Week 6: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

The workshop runs from January 4 to February 14 2009.

Australia Without Borders

Back in March 2007 I first made mention of the report that US bookselling chain Borders was intending to sell its stores here in Australia and concentrate on its US market. Subsequent reports proved this rumour to be true and the Borders stores were put on the market. "The Age" last weekend examined the implications of that sale in its Business pages.

The fate of the Australian outlets hangs in the balance after a bid by A&R Whitcoulls Group, the owners of the Angus & Robertson book chain, that is being assessed by the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission - Australia's consumer watchdog] after it raised concerns about the impact on competition. A&R is Australia's largest book retailer with 119 company-owned and 63 franchised stores. At stake is the future of the superstores, which, if the deal is approved, could remain as they are, close down, or be converted into conventional Angus & Robertson stores. But also at stake is whether Australians will enjoy the current competitive diversity of outlets selling books and music, or a smaller number of retailers gain a stranglehold, as has been the pattern overseas.

Best Books of the Year #12 - Locus Magazine (Recommended Reading)

In addition to yesterday's Best Books of the Year, Locus Magazine has also published a Recommended Reading list for sf&f works from 2007. The Australian items are listed below (chances are I've missed one or two - feel free to point them out to me):

Young Adult Novel
Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier

Rynemonn by Terry Dowling
The Jack Vance Treasury, Jack Vance, edited by Terry Dowling & Jonathan Strahan

Original Anthology
Wizards edited by Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois
The New Space Opera edited by Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan
Eclipse One: New Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Jonathan Strahan

Bests of the Year
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume One edited by Jonathan Strahan
Best Short Novels: 2007 edited by Jonathan Strahan

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

"Dark Integers", Greg Egan (Asimov's 10-11/07)
"Glory", Greg Egan (The New Space Opera)
"Steve Fever", Greg Egan (MIT Technology Review 11-12/07)
"Holly and Iron", Garth Nix (Wizards)
"Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz Go to War Again", Garth Nix (Baen's Universe 4/07)

Best Books of the Year #11 - Locus Magazine

Each year Locus Magazine - the major newsletter of the sf and fantasy publishing world - gets one critic to list their best sf&f works of the year.

For 2007, Jeff VanderMeer offers his suggestions, and has chosen an Australian book as one of his worthy novels: "Black Sheep by Ben Peek served up dystopia Pacific Rim-style, in often searing and seering prose."

He also picked out, as a first novel, "Amberlight by Sylvia Kelso should appeal to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy with its splendid evocations of place." Which is a bit strange as Amberlight is her third novel. Maybe it's got something to do with where the books are published.

Elsewhere, "Billed as an exciting new original anthology, Eclipse One: New Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Jonathan Strahan wound up being less adventurous than any of the anthologies listed..[the book] was entirely too comfortable and familiar to support Strahan's assertion that he's operating in the tradition of classic series like Terry Carr's Universe -- although the series may well grow into that role over time."

In the graphic novel section it's hardly surprising to see him chose "The Arrival by Shaun Tan, about an immigrant to a fantastical city, is an instant classic."

Cover of His Illegal Self


Long time readers of this weblog will remember this post about the first hardcover edition of Kate Grenville's The Secret River. The basic problem was that while the dustjacket carried all the book's identification - title, author and publisher - the cloth case did not. A few months later the second edition of the hardcover had rectified the problem and all was well.

Now, the latest novel from Peter Carey, His Illegal Self, suffers from the same problem. As bookseller Jack Bradstreet pointed out in a letter to "Australian Book Review" regarding the previous example, if the dustjacket is lost the book becomes unidentifiable on the shelf. Grenville's book was worse in that the cloth cover was fully black. Carey's novel at least has a printed photo on the cloth. Not much good if you shelve your novels with the spine out, however.

The Transit of Venus Revisited

Michael Gorra takes a retrospective look at Shirley Hazzard's novel The Transit of Venus.

Henry James once wrote that he wanted "to write in such a way that it would be impossible to an outsider to say whether I am, at a given moment, an American writing about England or an Englishman writing about America." The Transit of Venus fulfills that ambition -- or no, it's got a different one, that of making such terms seem irrelevant. It's set mostly in Britain, in the decades after the war, and follows two Australian-born sisters through their very different lives, their very different experiences of sex and marriage and career. Its social landscape will be familiar to any reader of Lessing or Murdoch or Drabble, and yet it is not an English novel. Hazzard lacks the concern with gentility -- for or against -- that marks almost all English writers of her generation. She has the keenest of eyes for the nuances of class, class even in a university laboratory, and yet doesn't appear to have anything herself at stake in getting it all down. Nor is the book exactly American, despite Hazzard's long residence in New York. She has more restraint and less bravado than her American peers and she isn't nearly so ingratiating.

2008 Australian Honors List

I didn't go through the list of Australian Honors recipients this Australia Day, but David Marr did, and he's not happy. The list honors "42 researchers, half of them medical, another dozen or so medicos, a dozen or so bureaucrats and 37 sports folk", but not a lot from the literature field.

There isn't a novelist on the 2008 list. This year the nation could have tackled the backlog of great writers unhonoured by Yarralumla. But Helen Garner, Peter Carey, Shirley Hazzard, Alex Miller, Kate Grenville and Tim Winton -- among many others -- have still to be recognised by the nation for their services to literature. Republicans among them may feel now is not the time to accept such honours, but clearly the business of writing isn't high on the list of achievements officially blessed in today's Australia.
The best I could find was Louise Adler - publisher of Melbourne University Publishing.

Miles Franklin Was Big in the Early 1900s

You may have read about the new Amazon ebook reader, the Kindle, when it was released a few months back. Now the folks at Amazon have started a blog devoted to works available for the Kindle - which seems natural enough. Their latest entry reprints a list of ten bestsellers from the decade 1900-1910 first compiled by Nancy Pearl, author of the Book Lust and More Book Lust reading guides.

Amongst that august bestseller list is My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. Needless to say, this is now available for ebook purchase. [Just as an aside, I always thought decades started with the "1" year, ie 1901-1910. But maybe I'm just picking nits again.]

Sean Lindsay on The Great Australian Novel

Sean Lindsay, proprietor of the "101 Reasons to Stop Writing Weblog", is interviewed by the good people on the Jossip website. Sean has some interesting things to say about The Great Australian Novel (caps compulsory). It doesn't start out that way, but bear with it:

What's the deal with the great American novel? Why does everyone want to write it?

When people talk of the "Great American Novel", what they mean in more concrete terms is "The Book Everyone Reads". Every writer dreams of writing the book that is foisted on every teenager in high school English class, and the guaranteed sales, frequent movie adaptations and honorary doctorates that come with it.

There's no consensus on what constitutes the Great American Novel, which leads some writers with Ozymandian egos to think they're going to write it. You never hear debate over the Great Russian Novel, because it's War and Peace. The only discussion about the Great English Novel is which Dickens novel it is. There is zero discussion over the Great Australian Novel, because there are no great Australian novels.

It's also because of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, which would certainly be on the shortlist for the Great American Novel if such a list existed. Lee is a perfect example of a writer who did the honourable thing after producing her masterpiece -- she stopped writing. She didn't whittle away her reputation on increasingly erratic minor novels and getting into fistfights with other ageing writers. But she's also a terrible counterexample: her best work was her debut, providing a convenient exception to the rule that you have to 'hone' your writing talent over years and hundreds of thousands of words. Now all aspiring Great American Novelists cling to the Harper Lee Fantasy that they will magically produce a masterwork, when they eventually get around to writing. It's the literary equivalent of aspiring to win the lottery.

How to Get Children to Read

Some 10 days old now, but still relevant, is this piece by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen in "The Age", which poses the question "How do we help our young enjoy reading?"

I'm actually amused when the question comes up about how much reading people's children do. Generally you find out the kids aren't doing a lot. I then ask "Do you read read much?", to which the answer is, again, "no". My kids live in a house that has books all over the place, generally fairly well shelved, but they are in most rooms. So our kids see them all the time, on shelves on tables, being read and handed around. They are part of the life of our house, and, so, they have become part of the life of our kids as well.

My 15 year-old daughter reads about a book a day over the holidays and is moving through that transition period between young adult and adult fiction - our local library is a god-send here. My 8 year-old son is currently reading Asterix, Tin Tin and as many books on Ancient Egypt as he can find. It doesn't matter what kids read as long as they are actually doing it: comics, sf, fantasy, trash, classics, or young adult; it makes absolutely no difference. But if they aren't seeing you, as a parent reading on a regular basis, then chances are they won't read much either.

Even More Forthcoming Books for 2008

Sophie Masson writes with the news that she has the following books
forthcoming in 2008.

Thomas Trew and the Selkie's Curse
Thomas Trew and the Flying Huntsman
Thomas Trew and the Island of Ghosts (These are nos 4 5 and 6 of her Thomas Trew series for younger readers, already published in UK by Hodder Children's Books)

The Case of the Diamond Shadow, a YA mystery novel set in the 1930's, to be
published by ABC Books. Sophie has started a blog for it at Case of the Diamond Shadow.

Online Zombie Novel

Chuck McKenzie, Australian sf and horror writer, is writing an online zombie novel, titled One Day at a Time: Life, the Zombie Apocalypse and All That, in the form of blog entries. The first entry is dated January 1st 2008, and deals with what happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Looks interesting.

[Thanks to Horrorscope for the link.]

Major Australian Literary Anniversaries in 2008

Births in 1908

Sir Donald Bradman (d. 2001)
Harry Hooton (d. 1961)
Eve Langley (d. 1974)
Ronald McCuaig (d. 1993)
Cynthia Nolan (d. 1976)
T.G.H. Strehlow (d. 1978)
Frederick J. Thwaites (d. 1979)
R.M. Williams (d. 2003)

Deaths in 1908

Ernest Favenc (b. 1845)
David Syme (b. 1827)

First Publication in 1908

"The Austra-laise" by C.J. Dennis
The Call of the South by Louis Becke
For Life and Other Stories by Steele Rudd
Maurice Guest by Henry Handel Richardson
The Missing Link by Edward Dyson
"One Hundred and Three" by Henry Lawson
Sea and Sky by J. Le Gay Brereton
The Squatter's Ward by Edward S. Sorenson
That Girl by Ethel Turner
We of the Never-Never by Aeneas Gunn

Births in 1958

Debra Adelaide
Graeme Base
Isobelle Carmody
Lilian Darcy
Sarah Day
Michelle de Kretser
Lionel Fogarty
Steven Herrick
Paul Hetherington
Christopher Kelen
Stephen Lawrence
Kathy Lette
Rownena Cory Lindquist
Kathryn Lomer
David Metzenthen
Kathleen Stewart

Deaths in 1958

Ethel Anderson (b. 1883)
Mary Grant Bruce (b. 1878)
C.R. Jury (b. 1893)
Philip Lindsay (b. 1906)
Hugh McRae (b. 1876)
Ethel Turner (b. 1870)

First Publication in 1958

All the Rivers Run by Nancy Cato
Antipodes in Shoes by Geoffrey Dutton
The Backlash by Morris West
The Boys in the Island by Christopher Koch
The Four-Legged Lottery by Frank Hardy
Girl with a Monkey by Thea Astley
Inland: Poems by David Rowbotham
Kings of the Dingoes by Judith Wright
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by John Thompson and Kenneth Slessor
Naked Under Capricorn by Olaf Ruhen
The Rainbow and the Rose by Nevil Shute
To the Islands by Randolph Stow

Best Books of the Year #10 - Detectives Beyond Borders

Peter Rozovsky, of the "Detectives Beyond Borders" weblog, has been listing his favorite crime novels of 2007. Included in the list are a few Australians: Nice Try by Shane Maloney Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland Crook as Rookwood by Christopher Nyst The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

More Forthcoming Books for 2008 [Updated]

Additions to the previous list of forthcoming Australian books for 2008:


  • Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (F)
  • School for Heroes by Jackie French (F)
  • The Dragon Queens: Mytique Book Two by Traci Harding (F)
  • Creeping in Reptile Flesh by Robert Hood (F)
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed by Sean Williams (F)
  • The Changeling by Sean Williams (F)
  • The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (F)
  • Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch by Simon Haynes (F)
  • The Dream Horsemen: Dreaming in Amber Book Four by Tony Shillitoe (F)
  • The Steele Diaries by Wendy James (F)
  • The Serpent Bride: Dark Glass Mountain Book One by Sara Douglass (F)
  • The Twisted Citadel: Dark Glass Mountain Book Two by Sara Douglass (F)
  • Mer Magic by Kate Forsyth (F)
  • Hammer of God: Godspeaker Book Three by Karen Miller (F)
  • Year's Best Australian SF & Fantasy: Fourth Annual Edition edited by Bill Congreve & Michelle Marquardt (F)
  • Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann (F)
  • The Black Madonna: Mytique Book Three by Traci Harding (F)
  • Runcible Jones and the Frozen Compass by Ian Irvine (F)
  • Riversend: Book Two of the Amberlight Series by Sylvia Kelso (F)
  • The Ultimate Fairy Book by Justine Larbalestier (F)
  • Macabre: A Journey through Australian Horror edited by Angela Challis and Marty Young (F)
  • Wolf Kingdom by Richard Harland (F)
  • The Red Country: Book Three of the Chronicles of Rihannar by Sylvia Kelso (F)
  • The Destiny of the Dead: Book 3 of the Song of the Tears Trilogy by Ian Irvine (F)

A lot of the entries here were taken from the list of forthcoming Australian sf and fantasy compiled last year by Deborah Biancotti, Garth Nix, Trevor Stafford and Jonathan Strahan. And one directly from the author. If you want a bit more information about some of the big-hitters returning in 2008 (Carey, Garner, Bail etc) have a look at Susan Wyndham's post on her "Undercover" blog.

Note: I've updated this list to remove Dragon Moon by Carole Wilkinson. It appears the item listed will be a new international edition. The Australian edition was published in 2007 by Black Dog Books.

Centenary of Simone de Beauvoir's Birth

This week will be the centenary of Simone de Beauvoir's birth. Angelique Chrisafis, in "The Guardian", talks to someone with a major interest in the subject.

Hazel Rowley, an Anglo-Australian writer whose recent book Tête-à-Tête detailed how De Beauvoir and Sartre's open relationship polarised public opinion, said she was worried that next week's rush of debates would see the couple described as "monsters". She said it could set off a stream of pronouncements on De Beauvoir's sex life, including "cruel, sadistic, manipulating, lying and all these stupid words".

"I don't think we should be trivialising this incredible figure by fixating on lascivious sex," Rowley said. "Why are we doing this? Are we puritanical? Do we think we're superior, and why?" She said she hoped the centenary year would "stop people mocking and belittling De Beauvoir".

Best Books of the Year #9 - Kirkus

A few Australian books have made the grade in the "Kirkus Reviews" Best Books 2007 listing [PDF file].

In the fiction section, Arabella Edge's The God of Spring is decribed as gathering "together threads of artistic obsession, urgent sex, beyond-horrific deprivation, the dizzying spin of madness, scandal and the need to make palpable the awful and awesome possibilities of the human condition."

Amongst the non-fiction is J.M. Coetzee's Inner Workings: Essays 2000-2005, and in the "Best Indie Books" list lies Chain of evidence by Garry Disher, though there doesn't appear to be any review or description of either.

Forthcoming Books for 2008

"The Age" newspaper has published its rundown on what books we can expect to see on the shelves over the next 12 months. Here are some Australian highlights (the "F" signifies fiction):


  • Just Words? Authors Writing for Justice edited by Bernadette Brennan
  • The Dressmaker's Daughter by Kate Llewellyn
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (F)
  • The Best Australian Political Writing edited by Maxine McKew
  • After the Election by Peter van Onselen and Philip Senior
  • Addition by Toni Jordan (F)
  • Fan Mail by P.D. Martin (F)
  • Gathering Storm by Rosie Dub (F)
  • Births Deaths Marriages by Georgia Blain
  • I Peed on Fellini by David Stratton
  • Thirteen Tonne Theory by Mark Seymour
  • Dear Mr Rudd: Ideas for Australia by Robert Manne
  • American Journeys by Don Watson
  • Princesses and Pornstars by Emily Maguire
  • A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (F)
  • Quakers by Rachel Hennessy (F)
  • The Comfort of Figs by Simon Cleary (F)
  • Dark Integers and Other Stories by Greg Egan (F)
  • Murder on the Apricot Coast by Marion Halligan (F)
  • Open File by Peter Corris (F)
  • Spinning the Dream: Assimilation in Australia 1950-1970 by Anna Haebich
  • The Spare Room by Helen Garner (F)
  • His Illegal Self by Peter Carey (F)
  • God of Speed by Luke Davies (F)
  • The Good Parents by Joan London (F)
  • Disquiet by Julia Leigh (F)
  • Unstill Life by Judith Pugh
  • Stella Miles Franklin by Jill Roe
  • Life in His Hands by Susan Wyndham
  • The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie (F)
  • Bluey's War by Herb Hamlet (F)
  • Alibi by Sydney Bauer (F)
  • Gospel by Sydney Bauer (F)
  • A Family History of Smoking by Andrew Reimer
  • Stanley and Sophie by Kate Jennings
  • My Reading Life by Bob Carr
  • The Lucy Family Alphabet by Judith Lucy
  • Breath by Tim Winton (F)
  • The Woman in the Lobby by Lee Tulloch (F)
  • Nocturne by Diane Armstrong (F)
  • The Sydney Pen 3 Writers Project
  • Whale Song by Karen Viggers (F)
  • Monster Blood Tattoo, Book Two: Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish (F)
  • Incandescence by Greg Egan (F)
  • The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 6: Superior Saturday by Garth Nix (F)
  • Earth Ascendant by Sean Williams (F)
  • Panic by Katherine Howell (F)
  • Musk and Burn by Fiona Capp (F)
  • The New Angel by Ali Alizadeh (F)
  • The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide (F)
  • Bird by Sophie Cunningham (F)
  • Sea of Many Returns by Arnold Zabe (F)
  • Dreamland by Tom Gilling (F)
  • The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper
  • Thirsty Country by Asa Wahlquist
  • The Wisdom of Water by John Archer
  • Enid Lyons: A Biography by Anne Henderson
  • The Economy of Light by Jack Dann (F)
  • Life in Seven Mistakes by Susan Johnson (F)
  • Ice by Louis Nowra (F)
  • The Pages by Murray Bail (F)
  • The Boat by Nam Le (F)
  • The Time Engine by Sean McMullen (F)
  • Voodoo Doll by Leah Giarratano (F)
  • One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna (F)
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (F)
  • Everything I Knew by Peter Goldsworthy (F)
  • Blood Oil by James Phelan (F)
  • a novel by Azhar Abidi (F)
  • The Land of Plenty by Mark Davis
  • Rebels: The Life and Times of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin by Alasdair McGregor
  • Gentle Satan by Alan Saffron (bio of Abe Saffron)
  • Eddie by Patrick Lindsay (bio of Eddie McGuire)
  • The Hidden Garden by Kate Morton (F)
  • Arabesques by Robert Dessaix
  • Have My Stuff by Corinne Grant
  • Deception by Michael Meehan (F)
  • Hamlet: A Novel by John Marsden (F)
  • The Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer
  • Manning Clark by Brian Matthews
  • Dissection by Jacinta Halloran (F)
  • Life in the Bus Lane by Ian Commins (F)
  • Time of Grace by Robyn Annear (F)
  • Cook and His Rivals by Geoffrey Blainey
  • Byron or Bust by Wendy Harmer (F)
  • Shots by Don Walker
  • To Love, Honour and Betray by Kathy Lette (F)
  • a "what if" novel by John Birmingham (F)
  • The Science of Climate Change by John Zillman
  • Doing Life by Brian Dibble (bio of Elizabeth Jolley)
  • Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (F)
  • The People's History of Australia by Thomas Keneally
  • a novel by Garry Disher (F) - probably a Wyatt novel
  • David Williamson by Kristin Williamson
Too far off it seems.

In addition, look for The Bath Fugues by Brian Castro later in the year; a novel from Kate Grenville in October or November; On Rage by Germaine Greer; On Longing by Blanche D'Alpuget; On Shame by Steve Vizard; and a new crime novel, Siren, by Tara Moss later in the year.

Addition material obtained from various sources, including Locus Magazine and various publishers' webpages.

Best Books of the Year #8 - Various

"The Observer" picks Bad Faith by Carmen Callil, as a Best Book of the Year in their biography section: "This brilliant and disturbing book is the result of years of courageous and no doubt heart-rending research, but the results are absolutely worth the effort. Callil's portrait is of a monstrous man, but not a monster."

"New York Magazine" picks The Arrival by Shaun Tan as its Best Comic of the Year: "A nameless man leaves his family behind in search of a better life in a new land -- a universal saga given a strange twist in this wordless, gorgeously illustrated story of human striving by Australian artist Tan."

"The Economist" has chosen Carpetaria by Alexis Wright as one of their best picks in their Fiction section: "A sweeping novel that will be published in Britain next year (though not in America) about the unhappy relations between the white majority and indigenous aboriginals, by a notable Australian narrator. A voice to remember."

Best Books of the Year #7 - "The Sydney Morning Herald"

"The Sydney Morning Herald" has asked its reviewers to choose their best of the year:

Andrew Riemer:
Typewriter Music (UQP) by David Malouf
Diary of a Bad Year (Text) by J.M. Coetzee
Shakespeare's Wife (Bloomsbury) by Germaine Greer
Jamaica (Allen & Unwin) by Malcolm Knox
Afterwards (William Heinemann) by Rachel Seiffert

Sue Turnbull:
Sucked In (Text) by Shane Maloney
Chain of Evidence (Text) by Garry Disher
The Calling (Hodder) by Jane Goodall

Bruce Elder:
The 7.56 Report (Text) by John Clarke and Brian Dawe
Bondi Badlands (Allen & Unwin) by Greg Callaghan

Angie Schiavone:
That's Why I Wrote This Song (HarperCollins) by Susanne Gervay
Joel And Cat Set The Story Straight (Penguin) by Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow
Right Book, Right Time (Allen and Unwin) by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen

Meg Sorensen:
Is Your Grandmother a Goanna? (Viking) by Pamela Allen

Best Books of the Year #6 - "The Age"

"The Age" asks a number of writers, both Australian and non, to select their best reads of the year. Australian selections follow:

Charlotte Wood: The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
Christos Tsiolkas: Jamaica by Malcolm Knox
Peter Carey: The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon
Les Murray: Fear of Tennis by David Cohen
Alexis Wright: The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon, and The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser
Jeff Sparrow: Napoleon's Double by Antoni Jach, and Carpentaria by Alexis Wright
Chris Wallace-Crabb: Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
Peter Temple: Maroon and Blue Recollections of the Fitzroy Football Club by Adam Muyt
Michelle de Kretser: Jamaica by Malcolm Knox, The Children by Charlotte Wood, Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee, The Lamb Enters the Dreaming by Robert Kenny, and Other Summers by Stephen Edgar
Matthew Condon: The Complete Stories by David Malouf
Jennifer Maiden: Not Finding Wittgenstein by J.S. Harry, and El Dorado by Dorothy Porter

Scribe Publications

Ray Cassin continues his irregular look inside the world of Australian publishing with a visit to the office of Scribe Publications.

There is a loyalty, a group identity, at Scribe that is not like the usual contrived allegiances of large corporations. The interaction between Scribe's publisher, Henry Rosenbloom, and his small staff - all up there are fewer than a dozen, including Rosenbloom - is collegiate. It is not simply about touting the product - though everyone works hard at that - but about believing that what the house does is worthwhile. Truth is that you have to be very committed to work at Scribe.

The Summer Read

Over the past week or so, and presumably over the next few weeks, I've been listing holiday reading suggestions from various sources: authors, newspapers, and magazines. The State Library of Victoria also puts out their recommended summer reading list under a program they title, aptly, The Summer Read. All books are written by Victorians, or set in Victoria.

The books listed are:

Company by Max Barry
Ron McCoy's Sea of Diamonds by Gregory Day
The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser
Chain of Evidence by Garry Disher
The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize by Peter Doherty
Broken by Isla Evans
Delinquent Angel by Diana Georgeff
Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard
In My Skin by Kate Holden
Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland
Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy
Spiral Road by Adib Khan
The Unexpected Elements of Love by Kate Legge
Cricket Kings by William McInnes
Landscape of Farewell by Alex Miller
Dodging the Bull by Paul Mitchell
Patriot Act by James Phelan
El Dorado by Dorothy Porter
Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung
Hoi Polloi by Craig Sherborne

In addition to the list, the library has included the opportunity for readers to comment on their reading, and to vote on their favourite of the books.

And in a more recent bit of news, the Library will be interviewing a number of the authors on the list, and placing those interviews on YouTube. The first interview was with Garry Disher and is available here: Part 1 and Part 2.

[Update: I previously said that the books were all written by Victorians AND set in Victoria. The "AND" should have been an "OR", so I've fixed it.]

Best Books of the Year 2007 #5 - "The Telegraph"

"The Telegraph" out of the UK has produced its lists for the annual Best Books event. Some of the category links didn't work for me, so there might be some Australian books missing.

Australian entry on the lists: Deborah Robertson's Careless (Sceptre, £12.99, T £11.99) is a book I am still thinking about. It shows what happens when the bond of care and responsibility between a mother and child is inverted, so that the child becomes her mother's carer. When circumstances demand it, eight year-old Pearl is capable of delivering: "the Madonna of smiles; serene and consoling, a smile so at odds with her own true feelings that only a grown woman should have been capable of it". Set in Australia, paced like a thriller, this is an entrancing novel that deserves to be more widely known.

Author Recommendations 2007 #2 - The Observer

Peter Carey picks the same book for "The Observer" as he did for "The Guardian": too busy writing his next novel obviously.

The others:

MJ Hyland
Callisto (Atlantic) by Torsten Krol. Although it's sometimes flawed, I admire almost everything about it. It's a well-made story, often funny, often suspenseful, a wonderfully
strange tale about, among other things, a young, gormless man who lands in a Guantanamo Bay-style prison for no sane or good reason. Callisto is a shrewd satire on the 'war on terror'; a subtle and moving account of a nationalistic paranoia induced by unexamined fear and phobia. The lack of attention it has received says something grim about the sheep-like nature of the making and following of literary trends

Michael Ondaatje
I came to it late but the best book I read this year was a novel by JM Coetzee. The Master of Petersburg (Vintage) is an overpowering work about grief -- involving Dostoyevsky and the death of his stepson -- that gradually turns into a novel about revolution and political paranoia. This is a world of dark hallways and basements and whispers and fear, starkly written and just about flawless.

Author Recommendations 2007 #1 - Guardian Review

On the other side of the ledger from "Best Books of the Year" - the evil twin if you prefer - is the list of authors' recommendations. First one of the year that I've seen is from the "Guardian Review".

Peter Carey Remember the Christmases before Thatcher and Reagan? Remember when the free market was still seen as theology, not economics? Remember when Milton Friedman was generally regarded as a dangerous lunatic? So much weird shit has happened since then that a Keynesian writer, in favour of a mixed economy, can now be seen as a dangerous radical, even as a Marxist! Welcome to our confused, overwrought Christmas present, the year of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine (Allen Lane). It has the power to make us change the way in which we see exactly how Friedman and his Chicago boys created a new orthodoxy in which Chile, Iraq, New Orleans and South Africa -- that is the short list -- have been grasped as opportunities to create that mythical perfect place, that tabula rasa, where the free market can finally exist. If you know people who still believe that free markets and democracy walk hand in hand, give them this for Christmas. This is past, present and future all in one.

Colm Tóibín Tim Winton's Breath (Picador, May), a coming-of-age novel set in the world of surfing in western Australia, is his best to date. It is written with great tenderness and sympathy and rhythmic energy, and structured with immense skill.

Best Books of the Year 2007 #4 - "The New York Times"

"The New York Times" always lists 100 Notable Books of the Year. The only Australian on the list: Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts by Clive James

The Bloke in Politics

If you've any interest in Australian politics you would have seen that a Federal election was held in this country over the weekend. That election resulted in the sitting Coalition government being over-thrown by the Opposition Labor Party. The government lost office, the Prime Minister lost his seat, and then the Liberal Party's heir-apparent, Peter Costello, lost his nerve and decided not to run for leader of his party. He cited a desire to spend more time with his family, and then, in a rare moment, handed the podium over to his wife Tanya, who explained her feelings by quoting a few lines from C.J. Dennis' The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke.

Yeh live, yeh love, yeh learn; an' when yeh come
To square the ledger in some thortful hour,
The everlastin' answer to the sum
Must allus be, "Where's sense in gittin' sour?"
Livin' an' lovin' -- so life mooches on.
Which seemed like a pretty fair way to explain it all.

Hardie Grant Books

As the small Australian publishing firm Hardie Grant Books celebrates 10 years in business, Jason Steger of "The Age" profiles the company.

After 10 years, Hardie Grant now has a yearly turnover of about $40 million, with books accounting for 70 per cent of the business. "We think we are the biggest independent publisher in Australia after Allen & Unwin. We are mid-size and that's what we set out to be. We didn't want to be a big player, but we didn't want to lick the stamps ourself," Grant says. Highlights in the 10 years include the spoof travel guides by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch such as Molvania that have been sold round the world and "having a stable business that you don't wake up worrying about in the middle of the night". Like he was doing in the early days.

50th Anniversary of They're a Weird Mob

Humphrey McQueen looks back at 50 years of a novel and the film it spawned:

They're a Weird Mob leapt out of Australian bookstores from November 1957. By Christmas, the first edition of 6000 had sold out. Five reprints followed by the end of February and by 1981, the book had sold half a million copies, making it Australia's best-selling novel.
I have a feeling he's probably talking about Australian sales here. In a recent piece on Neville Shute's On The Beach, Gideon Haigh states that the book sold 100,000 copies in the first 6 weeks. These are world-wide sales and unfortunately Haigh doesn't give any final figures. But you would have to suspect that, at least following the sucess of the subsequent film version, Shute's novel would have passed 500,000. Beyond the sales figures, however, it was the timing of the novel's publication that helped to impinge it on the nation's consciousness.
Weird Mob appeared just after the vernacular had triumphed on stage in Ray Lawler's Summer of the Seventeenth Doll in 1955. O'Grady's prose lacked the vibrancy of Doll's colloquialisms, as in "getting a sea breeze off the gutter". Nor did Weird Mob aspire to the lexical wit of Let Stalk Strine in 1964 from "Professor Affabeck
Lauder" (A. A. Morrison), resplendent in his "gloria soame". Instead, A Weird Mob was "slanguage"-based. "Mate" or "matey" appears on an average of once for each of its 200 pages, on top of a chorus of "Howyergoin' mate orright?". O'Grady confirmed prejudices about the workers' twang -- "ut" for "it" -- at a time when proper people said they voted for Mr Menzies because he spoke so "naicely". That class divide has dissolved. The ABC would not have allowed many of its current presenters to go to air in 1957. Australian English now has a few Italian inflections.
The novel was a product of its times, and, as McQueen puts it: "Today, both novel and subsequent film can seem little more than curiosities. Yet, they offer a place from which to ponder the recasting of our daydreams, and nightmares." As a final note, in the middle of this piece, McQueen states that "O'Grady churned out 17 more novels" after They're a Weird Mob, which I find to be a rather peculiar turn-of-phrase. I know what he's getting at; he's taking a sly shot at what he considers to be O'Grady's hack work. Eighteen novels in 24 years (he died in 1981) doesn't seem all that bad to me. Plenty of novelists these days - especially those that tend to the genre side of the street - produce as much, if not more. Not all of it is of the highest quality, but it is still possible for them to achieve a quite reasonable hit rate. For most of the piece in question McQueen is quite appreciative of O'Grady's pioneering work. And yet he has to take this dig at him without backing it up. Strange.

Best Books of the Year 2007 #3 - Amazon

Amazon have released their Best Books of 2007 list. It's interesting to note that 3 Australian books made the Amazon editors' list, and all appear in the Teens section:

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Best Books of the Year 2007 #2 - New York Times

It's all go for Shaun Tan at present as his latest book, The Arrival, is chosen as one of "The New York Times" Best Children's Illustrated Books of the Year. The link takes you to a slideshow of the books nominated. Tan's is about 3rd or 4th in.

Best Books of the Year 2007 #1 - Publisher's Weekly

"Publisher's Weekly" is first out of the blocks this year with its list of 2007's Best Books. I've named this entry "#1" as I suspect we'll be seeing quite a lot of these in the coming weeks.

Australian books on the list:
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks "A web of criminal machinations infiltrates every aspect of an impossibly brilliant boy's life in this thoroughly entertaining and engrossing novel."
Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan "Rarely do YA readers find such uniformly strong short fiction as in Lanagan's dark and provocative fantasy collection of 10 stories, striking for their beautiful, quirky language and deep psychological insight."
The Complete Stories by David Malouf "Australia's stark landscapes are at the harsh, violent center of a career's worth of Malouf's fictions, where relationships enter uncharted territory."
The Arrival by Shaun Tan "This startling wordless tale chronicles an immigrant's attempt to build a new life through lush, sepia-toned illustrations of an enigmatic alternate universe."

Australian Writers in New York

It appears that a number of Australian sf and fantasy writers are attending this year's World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga, New York, November 1-4. Just prior to that, four of them, Margo Lanagan, Justine Larbalestier, Garth Nix and Scott Westerfeld are signing at Books of Wonder on Saturday October 27th from 3-5pm. Margo has the details on her blog.

Voss by Patrick White

In 1957, Voss by Patrick White won the first Miles Franklin Award. Now, 50 years after its publication, Chris Middendorp in "The Age" praises its virtues and hopes that it won't be forgotten.

White's most remarkable novel, Voss, was first published in 1957. It's now 50 years later, and where's the celebration? What's missing is some appropriate commemoration for the book that was once considered one of our greatest stories. A novel that the author Thomas Keneally described as one of the finest works of the modernist era and of the past century has been barely referred to all year.

Is this a unique Australian characteristic? The Spaniards revere Cervantes. The French worship Proust. The English lionise Dickens. Who do we idolise? It's the old story: there's no end to our adulation of sport stars, but authors seem pretty low on our awareness level. I guess White's Nobel Prize for Literature can't compete with the Don's prodigious cricket scores.

Betting on the Nobel Prize for Literature

Leading British bookmakers, Ladbrokes, have set their yearly market for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Their leading contenders read as follows:

  • Claudio Magris 5/1
  • Les Murray 6/1
  • Philip Roth 7/1
  • Thomas Transtromer 7/1
  • Adonis 8/1
  • Amos Oz 10/1
  • Haruki Murakami 10/1
  • Hugo Claus 10/1
  • Joyce Carol Oates 10/1
  • Ko Un 10/1
  • Antoni Tabucchi 20/1
  • Cees Nooteboom 20/1
  • Margaret Atwood 20/1
  • Milan Kundera 20/1
  • Thomas Pynchon 20/1

Australian contenders, other than Les Murray, include Peter Carey at 25/1, and David Malouf at 50/1.

First Tuesday Book Club

Don't forget that the First Tuesday Book Club is on ABC TV this evening, at 10pm. Books considered tonight: East of Time by Jacob G. Rosenberg, and Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Guest reviewers will include David Malouf (who chose the Melville novel as his favourite book), though I'm not sure who the second one will be.

The ABC have pushed this program out onto the internet quite well and it is possible to download a video file in either MP4 or WMV format. The most recent four episodes are available on the site as of today.

What's in a Title?

I would have thought that the title Global Savage would be quite a good one for a book about globalisation, nationalism and tribalism. Short, catchy, with some neat references built in. But not in the world of academic publishing it seems. Paul James, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology's professor of gobalisation found that the suggested title just didn't cut it. The final agreed titled was Globalism, Nationalism and Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back In. And the reason? "The publisher explained that the book's title was chosen to make it easy to find in a database search. A book on tribalism, nationalism and globalism is, after all, likely to get a more favourable ranking in an electronic search if the keywords are in the title."

I thought that was what sub-titles where for.

Obligatory AFL Grand Final Entry

Thomas Keneally will tell you that it is eminently possible to have a literary career of some note and still be interested in football. Keneally's problem is his football is Rugby League - the fourth version of football in my view. First, is Australian Rules Football, whose Grand Final is played out tomorrow between Geelong and Port Adelaide. Kerryn Goldsworthy, literary critic and blogger, is a dyed-in-the-wool Port Adelaide supporter and had an article published in "the Age" this week - enemy territory as it happens - in which she attempts to explain exactly why she follows the team. Does a pretty good job as well. The only pity is, it's the wrong Adelaide team.

Carbon Credit for Books

A new organisation, Eco-Libris, offers book-lovers the opportunity to offset some of the carbon usage involved in reading books. The aim is for reader to determine how many books they would like to balance out, and a specified number of trees will be planted. In addition, "Customers also receive a sticker made of recycled paper for every book they balance out saying 'One Tree Planted for this Book.' They can later display these stickers on their books' sleeves." A book a week looks like working out to a cost of about $A57. Definitely worth considering.

2007 HRC Seymour Lecture

The "Australian Book Review" has announced that the 2007 HRC Seymour Lecture will be titled "Biography and the Struggle for the Soul of Australia", and will be delivered by Professor Jill Roe AO, a well-known historian with a particular interest in historical biography. Professor Roe will be publishing a life of Miles Franklin in 2008. The lecture will be delivered in Melbourne on Wednesday, October 3 (NGV Australia: The Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square) and in Sydney on Wednesday, October 10 (National Maritime Museum), both at 6pm. The lectures are free and open to the public, and you can get further details at the lecture website.

Melbourne University Press Profile

In an occasional series for "The Age", Ray Cassin profiles Melbourne University Press and its publisher and chief executive officer, Louise Adler.

MUP has changed its policy direction since Adler came on board in 2003. The aim has been to move away from being a purely academic publisher to one which also publishes books for the intelligent informed reader. Recent successes have included The Latham Diaries by Mark Latham, Voyages to the South Seas: In Search of Terres Australes by Danielle Clode, and the recent biography of Australia's Prime Minister, John Winston Howard by Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen. If the intention is to inform, and occasionally lead, public debate, then it would appear that the press has certainly succeeded. The next publisher to be examined in this series with be Scribe.

MUP website.

No Taxation Without Compensation

Michael Heyward, publisher with Text Publishing, calls on the Federal Governement to return some of its taxation revenues, from the sales of books, back into the Australian publishing industry. As Heyward puts it, while it appears that the number of books published in Australia is quite high, it is actually on the lower end of the global scale when you compare book publication per million of the population. The argument goes that putting extra money into the Australian publishing industry by employing and training more book editors will act as a stimulus to the industry and allow publishers to publish more Australian content.

Rare Book Auction

The library of Dudley Dickison (together with other properties) is to be auctioned over the weekend of 17-18 September at Ormond Hall, Prahran. You can see the full catalogue of the natural history, voyages & travels, literature and art books on the auctioneer's website.

So if you've ever hankered after a signed first edition of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake (a steal at $A10-12,000) or a first edition of Ulysses printed in English at $A1500-2000, then here's your chance. One of the highlights would have to be a first edition of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin. One of only 1250 printed, this one is yours for $A70-90,000.

Writers at Literary Festivals

Mandy Sayers writes about what goes on behind closed doors at various literary festivals. I always like statements like: "The world's first official writers festival was staged in Adelaide in 1960." In that year the 18th World Science Fiction Convention was held in Pittsburgh, and Australian sf fans had already held 6 conventions of their own. I wonder what makes a writers' festival "official"?

First Tuesday Book Club for September

Last night's "First Tuesday Book Club" on ABC TV discussed Peter Temple's The Broken Shore, with all the commentators deciding it was quite brilliant. I have some reservations about the book, but you can see what was said last night by visiting the program's website and scrolling down to video highlights.

Various Bits of Interest

Clive James wants to go to the Sydney Writers' festival.
Australian author Katherine Howell - Frantic - gets a guest-blogging stint on Sarah Weinman's Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind.
John Joseph Adams interviews Margo Lanagan on "Sci-Fi Wire".
Tim Winton has been hanging around the Sydney Fish Markets.
Ben Hills, the Australian journalist who wrote a controversial biography of Japan's Crown Princess Masako, has received death threats ahead of the September release of the Japanese translation of his book, according to a Kyodo News report".

Hazel Rowley on Christina Stead

Hazel Rowley pops the big questions in the first two paragraphs of her piece in "The Australian".

Why aren't Australians proud of the writers and artists who have sprung from our soil? The French treat theirs as heroes. The Irish love theirs. Even though James Joyce fled from Ireland as a young man and much of his writing is ferociously difficult, you'd be hard put to find a self-respecting Irish soul who hasn't read something by him, and taxi drivers will tell you: "Today is James Joyce's birthday." Christina Stead surely vies with Patrick White for the status of our greatest writer, but most Australians couldn't tell you whether she is dead or alive, let alone name one of her books.
Well, I can tell you she is dead and the name of her best known work is The Man Who Loved Children. I know this because it has been sitting in my To Be Read pile for longer than I care to remember. I'll get to it soon, I promise.

How to Get Published

A week late but...

Clare Kermond talks to a number of writers and publishers about the tricks of the publishing trade, how to get started and all that. She talks to authors Max Barry, Adrian Hyland, agent Mary Cunnane and Joel Becker, director of the Victorian Writers' Centre.

Shared Worlds in Literature

In "The Courier-Mail" Jason Nahrung looks at the curious phenomenon of the "shared world", or "shared universe", as it is sometimes called. This is a literary technique which allows several authors to share a pre-defined literary world. It's more likely to be found in the fields of science fiction and fantasy than anywhere else, though it has been known by the term "crossover" in television series where a main character from one program will turn up on another. A recent, or upcoming (depending on when and where you are reading this) involves a character from "Cross Jordan" appearing on "Las Vegas".

"Shared worlds" series can be either short stories or novels, it matters not, and some of the major examples of the past include Robert Lynn Asprin's Thieves' World, C. J. Cherryh's Merovingen Nights, and George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards series. Nahrung, however, concentrates on Australian versions such as "The Lost Shimmaron" - which will include novels by "Queenslanders Rowena Cory Daniells, Marianne de Pierres, and Trent Jamieson, New South Wales writers Maxine McArthur, Margo Lanagan and Richard Harland, and Dirk Flinthart and Tansy Rayner Roberts from Tasmania" - and the Quentaris series of books which, since 1993, have featured books by Paul Collins, Michael Pryor, Gary Crew, Isobelle Carmody, Lucy Sussex and Margo Lanagan.

William Dyson Exhibition Poster


Australian YA Literature

Over the past couple of years Australian Young Adult (YA) fiction has been gaining a reputation as some of the most interesting and diverse examples of the genre anywhere in the world. The pity is that not much of it gets reviewed in the literary pages of our maor newspapers and magazines. So it is pleasing to see Rosemary Neill provide a survey of the field in "The Australian." She mentions all the main practitioners and mentions the interesting fact that, each year in Australia, sales of children's books account for about 20% of the $1 billion in retail sales. (I assume she means YA books as well as children's.)

In addition to Neill's article you will also find, on the webpage, a list of recent top reads recommended by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen. It's a pretty impressive list.

In an odd co-incidence, at the same time as the article by Neill, a group of American-based litbloggers has started a series of interviews with Australian YA writers. You can get a full list of the interviews on the "Chasing Ray" weblog. The list of authors includes Margo Lanagan, Melina Marchetta, Anna Feinberg, and Simmone Howell. Along the way a number of Australian YA books are reviewed. An impressive effort

Characters in Works of Fiction

If there is one thing that all writing manuals tell authors about characters it's that they have to be careful in choosing names. Mostly, I think, they do this to forewarn against the possibility of litigation: using the name of a well-known person - actor, politician, businessman - for the vile, disgusting villian of your piece is not considered to be an exercise in good judgement. If you even slightly get close to the real person's character they tend to take offence, and their lawyers become very happy again.

But it strikes me as being nearly impossible for any author to pick a name that is completely unique. Who would have thought, for example, that there would be another Perry Middlemiss in the world? There are at least two others, and one of them has a father with the same first name as my father's. Co-incidences occur, and you've just got to make the best of them.

Unfortunately, in this modern age of the internet, everyone is on the lookout for references to their name cropping up on the WWW. (Back in my fannish days this was called "ego-scanning".) So, whatever name you choose, you can pretty much guarantee that someone out there with an internet connection is going to become aware of it. What you probably wouldn't expect is that one such will write about the co-incidence in a major newspaper. Such is the case with Gina Davies who happens to share her name with the protagonist of Richard Flanagan's latest novel, The Unknown Terrorist. She states her problem right up front: "I know we've only just met, but I feel it's important to get through to you before I see that knowing glint in your eye as I introduce myself - I AM NOT A POLE DANCER." The article is rather mild - there's isn't a big rant from Ms Davies - but it does highlight a problem that authors need to be aware of. As if getting the bloody thing finished wasn't enough of a problem in the first place.

A Brief History of Australian Crime Fiction

If all you now about Australian crime fiction is Fergus Hume and the authors that I've been going on about on this weblog, then I suggest you read Lucy Sussex's brief history of the genre in this country. Lucy looks at some of the forgotten writers from the 19th century and finds that some of their life stories were almost as strange as their works of fiction.

The Beginning of the End for A&R Bookshops?

The mainstream media has been reporting, over the past week, a strange letter from Charlie Rimmer, Group Commercial Manager for Angus and Robertson bookshops, to a number of Australian independent publishers. In essence, this letter states that A&R will no longer take books from small suppliers for sale in their bookshops, without the payment of a fee to offset the suppliers' "unacceptable profitability". Books such as this year's Miles Franklin Award winner, Carpentaria by Alexis Wright published by Giramondo Press, will no longer be available in A&R bookshops. It all seemed a little strange to me at first. But I'm coming to the conclusion that we are probably witnessing the beginning of the end for A&R bookshops here in Australia. If you go into any of their outlets you will be, to put it bluntly, pretty bored by the product on display. Sure all the big sellers are there from all the big publishers, but each store looks the same. They've all become a version of a mass-produced product; hardly recognisable as a bookshop at all.

Now "The Sydney Morning Herald" as printed the original letter, and a reply from one of the small suppliers affected by A&R's decision. It does not make for pretty reading.

Australian SF and Fantasy

Back in 2005, Jonathan Strahan and Garth Nix put together a list of upcoming Australian science fiction and fantasy works. That list was developed in time for the World Fantasy Convention of 2005, which is traditonally held over the Halloween weekend. The list contained books that were scheduled for publication during the upcoming year, and the two of them considered it such a good idea that they've decided to do it again. Jonathan has issued a call-to-arms for publishers and people in the know to provide details of any such works. He has all the relevant contact details.

2007 Books Alive Campaign

The 2007 Books Alive Great Read Guide has been launched. As the website states: "Books Alive is an Australian Government initiative that aims to encourage all Australians to experience the joys of reading. Every year, Books Alive runs a nationwide campaign to ignite the country's passion for books and make it easier to choose a really great 'read'".

Fifty books are listed as suggestions for a "great read" in the following genres: Biography, Travel, Popular Science, History, Teen Fiction, Fantasy, Kids, Crime, Fiction, and Thriller.

It's a pretty good list, and I commend the initiative. For a short period, copies of The Ballad of Les Darcy by Peter FitzSimons will be given away with any purchase from the books in the guide.

The promotion runs until the end of August 2007.

Attending Writers' Festivals

Kathleen Noonan seems positively enthused about attending the Byron Bay Writers' Festival over this past weekend. So much so she wrote about her anticipation, her friends' bemusement, authors' angst, and attendees' disappointments in "The Courier-Mail".

And what drives writers to abandon their keyboards and face the reading public?

Writers are generally perceived as introverted, monk-like little creatures who like to observe and contemplate, locked away in their attics, rather than mixing with the crowds. The very nature of their job demands solitude and silence and their backside on a seat for at least several hours a day. Most are far more comfortable communicating through their writing.

Yet book tours and writers' festivals demand the very opposite. Few authors escape the festival circuit -- publisher and publicist drag even the big names, some screaming, to the podium to discuss not just their book. Often they are expected to be experts on world affairs, political issues, social trends, the voice of a generation.

Germaine Greer Not a Happy Vegemite

In a "Guardian" weblog entry Germaine Greer takes a wild swing at Richard Neville, his memoir Hippie Hippie Shake, and the upcoming film adaptation of it.

It's getting harder and harder to be a real person. You used to have to die before assorted hacks started munching your remains and modelling a new version of you out of their own excreta. There was a good reason for this: the person is always more than the text, or even the text with pictures, or even a moving picture in cinemascope with quadrophonic stereo sound. Reducing the person to excremental artefact before she is dead is worse than cannibalism.

Okay, I can understand that: who would want to see a fictionalised version of yourself presented to the general public as wholesale truth? Not a lot of us I would suspect.

If Greer had stayed on this line the rest of the essay might have been understandable - it's comparable to public figures not wanting biographies written of them while they're still alive. And then she just takes it a bit too far: "I don't, won't read any book in which I am a character because I know, from reading my husband's book, that trying to comprehend someone else's version of your life can drive you mad. When you accept somebody else's truth in lieu of your own, you have been successfully brainwashed. It makes no difference whether the version you have accepted is flattering or otherwise; either way your integrity is undermined. You're a little bit phonier."

Who says you have to "accept somebody else's truth in lieu of your own"? You can accept someone's truth as a companion to your own, but in "lieu of"? Ask anyone who's married, or in a long-term relationship. You're continually confronted by a different intrepretation of your life and actions on a daily basis. Doesn't mean that you have to discard your own and replace it with your partner's, you just have to accept that other people see your life differently. Be a dull old place if they saw it in exactly the same way I'd reckon. Quieter, but dull.

The Bibliography of Australian Literature

I've written about Austlit, the online Australian bibliography, here before, and now the University of Queensland has announced its print counterpart, The Bibliography of Australian Literature. The third volume, of four, has just been published by The University of Queensland Press.

Multiple Author Interviews

I'm not sure how this actually came about, though that doesn't matter so long as the final outcome lives up to expectations. It appears that a number of litbloggers (mostly US by the looks, but I wouldn't swear by that) are separately interviewing a number of Young Adult authors over the coming week. You can read the full schedule at "Chasing Ray". The Australian interviews to look out for include:

Justine Larbalestier at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy (Monday June 18)
Shaun Tan at A Fuse #8 Production (Tuesday June 19)
Sonya Hartnett at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Tuesday June 19)
Justine Larbalestier at Big A, little a (Thursday June 21)
Justine Larbalestier at Hip Writer Mama (Friday June 22)

Don't forget that these are all US times.

Henry Lawson vs Banjo Paterson

It was the 140th anniversary of Henry Lawson's birth yesterday, June 17, and, to commemorate the occasion, John Wright in "The Courier-Mail" asks "who was the funniest?", Lawson or Paterson. What a strange question? Both had their moments, but is that really what makes their work important?

David Scott Mitchell

The Mitchell Library in Sydney is one of the great repositories of Australiana in this country. What makes it even more remarkable is that the collection was started by one man, David Scott Mitchell. Nearing the hundredth anniversary of his death, "The Brisbane Times" profiles the man, and assesses his legacy.

Tom Keneally's New Play

"The Theatre J Blog" has announced that "Australian author Thomas Keneally and American playwright Ari Roth, the artistic director of Theatre J in Washington DC, will be coming to Melbourne to discuss Keneally's new play, Either Or."

The discussion will take place on Thursday 5 July, 7 pm, at the State Library of Victoria, Village Roadshow Theatrette. Tickets cost $25 or $18 for Victorian Writers' Centre members. In addition, the pair "will also be running a masterclass looking at script writing versus novel writing for published novelists and established theatre practitioners." That masterclass takes place on Friday 6 July, 10am-1pm at Glenfern, 417 Inkerman Road (corner Hotham Street), St Kilda East.

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature

In what strikes me as a strange, but very welcome, occurrence, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature appears to have been made available on the web. From an Australian and New Zealand perspective, "Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two. Chapter XII" is the one to look for. There you will find introductions to the works of Charles Harpur, Henry Kendall, Adam Lindsay Gordon, James Brunton Stephens, Henry Kingsley and William Howitt; Marcus Clarke; "Rolf Boldrewood", and Historians.

The Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists

Each year, since 1997, "The Sydney Morning Herald" has published a list of young Australian writers it considers to be going places. The Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists 2007 have now been announced as Danielle Wood, Will Elliott, and Tara June Winch. The piece gives a background to each author, judges' comments, and a list of previous winners.

[Thanks to Damien at the "Crime Down Under" weblog for the link.]

Australian Literary Podcasts

At the end of last year I gave a brief summary of the current literary podcasts in Australia that were available for donwload. Now we can add another one.

The Naked Novelist is run by Brendan Gullifer, and a lot of the podcasts available were first broadcast from his Melbourne-based Community Radio 3CR radio show "Published or Not". So far he has put up links to 27 shows that are available for download. Check it out. Brendan provides details of how to access the files and copy them to your computer or MP3 player, or you can read my original piece for some advice.

Shirley Hazzard and Italy

Susan Wyndham follows Shirley Hazzard's travel advice, and sometimes the woman herself, as she explores Capri, Rome and Naples for "The Sydney Morning Herald". I can just about feel a holiday coming on.

2007 Australian Book Review/La Trobe University lecture

The topic for the 2007 Australian Book Review/La Trobe University Lecture has been announced. Hazel Rowley with talk on "The Ups, the Downs: My Life as a Biographer".

The lecture details:
Thursday May 24 - at 1 p.m.
West Lecture Theatre 3 (nearest parking at Car Park 1)
La Trobe University
Bookings and further information via ABR: abr[at]vicnet[dot]net[dot]au
or (03) 9429 6700

These are free events and open to the public.
Space is limited, so reservations are highly recommended.

Girls' Books Versus Boys' Books

The State Library of Victoria is hosting a discussion titled "Girls' Books Versus Boys' Books" which they describe as "Six writers in an entertaining contest of wit and words."

Scheduled to take part are: Jacqueline Wilson (UK), Justine Larbalestier and Lisa Shanahan versus David Levithan (US), Jack Heath and Scot Gardner.

The event will be held at the Village Roadshow Theatrette at the Library (Entry 3, La Trobe Street), on Thursday 24th May from 6:30-8:30pm. Admission is $10, or $5 concession/student. You'll probably need to book - see the Youth Literature webpage for details, or ring 03 8664 7014 or email to "youthlit[at]slv[dot]vic[dot]gov[dot]au".

Tom Keneally's Schindler's Ark #2

The book club of "the Guardian" newspaper, run by John Mullan, continues looking at Tom Keneally's Schindler's Ark, this week tackling the subject of the novel's flawed hero: "It seems odd to use this literary word -- 'hero' -- for the protagonist of Thomas Keneally's novel, precisely because Oskar Schindler was truly, in life, heroic...while Schindler was certainly heroic, his motives are not exactly made known. In novelistic terms, he is an awkwardly enigmatic hero."

In extra news, "John Mullan is professor of English at University College London. Join him and Thomas Keneally on Tuesday May 22 at the Newsroom, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1. Doors open at 6.30pm. Tickets cost £8 (includes a glass of wine)." Contact details are on the webpage linked to above.

Tom Keneally's Schindler's Ark

"The Guardian" Book Club is taking a long hard look at Schindler's Ark by Tom Keneally with John Mullan discussing the author's use of the rhetorical device of prolepsis. (Yes, I had to look it up too).

First Tuesday Book Club

For Australian readers, be aware that the First Tuesday Book Club will be broadcast tonight, on ABC TV, at 10:00pm. Books under discussion are The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

War Stories on TV

For Australian readers Jennifer Byrne, host of First Tuesday Book Club, is tonight hosting four writers of war stories on ABC TV at 10pm. The writers: Geraldine Brooks, Les Carlyon, General Peter Cosgrove, and Rowley Richards.

The program uses the same set as the First Tuesday show but, from the previews shown so far, someone should have given Carlyon and Cosgrove different shirts - different jackets and/or different trousers might have helped as well. Sitting them next to each other makes them look like a little and large comedy act.

The New Space Opera

A while back I wondered if Australia was undergoing a re-surgence in "space opera" - a sub-genre of science fiction. Jason Nahrung, in "The Courier-Mail", certainly seems to think so.

For those wondering what this is all about, Wikipedia says the following: "Space opera is a subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes romantic adventure, and larger-than-life characters often set against vast exotic settings...'Space opera' was originally a derogatory term, a variant of 'horse opera' and 'soap opera,' coined in 1941 by Wilson Tucker to describe what he called 'the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space-ship yarn' -- i.e., substandard science fiction. 'Space opera' is still sometimes used with a pejorative sense...Eventually, though, a fondness for the best examples of the genre led to a reevaluation of the term and a resurrection of the subgenre's traditions. Writers such as Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson had kept the large-scale space adventure form alive through the 1950s, followed by (to name only a few exemplars) M. John Harrison and C. J. Cherryh in the 1970s and Iain M. Banks, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Paul McAuley in the 1980s. By this time, 'space opera' was for many readers no longer a term of insult but a simple description of a particular kind of science fiction adventure story."

The best example of the genre on televison at present is the updated version of Battlestar Galatica, but, as Nahrung notes, it's not only on the small screen that space opera is making a come-back. "With several book releases looming on the horizon, the next 12 months will be big for Australian space opera.

"Brisbane writer Marianne de Pierres launches her universe-straddling series with Dark Space in May, and fellow Queenslander Sonny Whitelaw has the latest in her Stargate SG-1 novels -- Roswell, co-written with Alice Springs writer Jennifer Fallon -- hitting the shelves this month. Perth editor Jonathan Strahan combines with America's Gardner Dozois to launch an anthology of space opera short stories in June, and Adelaide's Sean Williams puts musician Gary Numan in space with two stories set in his Astropolis universe, and returns to the Star Wars universe with a game tie-in."

Publishers Weekly - Hot Books for Summer

Each year "Publishers Weekly" provides a list of books to be read over the long, lazy days of summer - the northern summer that is.

This year the list includes The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan.

Oz Mystery Readers Group

The Oz Mystery Readers group on Yahoo seems to be fairly active, with some 400 or so messages being posted to the board each month. The group aims to "share opinions and information about crime/mystery fiction available in Australia in paperback." They do welcome members from all over the globe.

They are currently discussing Crook as Rookwood by Chris Nyst, which shared the Ned Kelly Award in 2006 with Peter Temple's The Broken Shore.

Patrick White Papers Explained

The latest issue of "Australian Book Review" contains an essay about Patrick White's papers in the National Library of Australia by Marie-Louise Ayres. Close readers out there will probably recognise this as being by the same author mentioned here a month ago regarding another piece in the "National Library of Australia News". A quick gance across both leads me to think these are one and the same. Can't find a note mentioning this in the ABR, however.

Proceeds of Crime

Shapelle Corby is a 29-year-old Australian woman serving a 20-year jail term in Indonesia for attempting to smuggle 4.1kg of cannabis into the country in a bodyboard bag in October 2004.

A book, Shapelle Corby My Story, written with Kathryn Bonella, was published last year and became a best-seller in this country. According to a report in "The Australian" the book has now sold nearly 100,000 copies and earned in excess of a quarter of a million dollars for the copyright holders.

The question is: who gets the money? The Queensland Court of Appeal has decided that the earnings constitute proceeds from crime and have ordered some $282,750 to be seized by police. In addition, a further $15,000, promised to Corby's sister for an interview in "New Idea" magazine has also been frozen.

This raises some interesting issues, not least the suggestion that the royalty money was to be used for defense costs and legal challenges. Leaving that aside, what about the interview with the sister? Yes, the interview would only be conducted because the subject's sister was in jail, but as the sister didn't actually commit the crime, can't she tell the family's story about how they are reacting to the publicity, the pressures they are under, and how they attempting to cope with it all? And how far does this connection extend? Immediate family? The professional writer who collaborated with Corby? The lawyers in the case? The journos who reported on it?

If you are going draw a line in the sand like this you'd better make it pretty definite who is on each side.

Blogging and Flogging

I'm not sure where this takes us:

Blogging, social networking, viral media: these terms are now bandied around in publishers' marketing meetings. Sometimes this gets results: see how Canongate turned Steven Hall's post-post-modern Raw Shark Texts into a cult before publication, via a MySpace page and haunting website. But the web is still seen as a cheap afterthought to established advertising and publicity. At a Bookseller-run seminar on "reaching readers online", Shaa Wasmund, founder of teenage girl site MyKindaPlace, told publishers that this must change: "You have to interact, and make this an integral part of your business rather than an add-on. Today it's all about the user being able to pull from the internet what they want rather than have it pushed to them." The challenge is to replicate word-of-mouth digitally: whether by creating a buzz among literary bloggers, filming a funny video that will be sent round by bored office workers, or building up a loyal following on social networking sites. But it can't be falsified, warned consultant Peter Collingridge: "There's a fine line between blogging and flogging - if you're using the blogosphere just to hype your products you will get found out immediately."

From "The Bookseller" by Joel Rickett, in "The Guardian" newspaper

Dr Who Short Stories

Sean Williams reports that he, along with Australian authors Lee Battersby, Stephen Dedman and Rob Hood, all have short stories in a new Doctor Who anthology titled Short Trips: Destination Prague. As Sean says, "It's great to live in a world where Doctor Who is cool again."

Australian Novels to be Translated into Chinese

The "China View" website has announced that 10 major Australian novels will be translated into Chinese "under an agreement with the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade". No word at this time as to the identity of all 10 novels, but they will be by living writers, 8 of which have won the Miles Franklin Aawrd. The titles will include Three Cheers for the Paracelete (1968) by Tom Keneally, The Great World (1990) by David Malouf, Shanghai Dancing by Brian Castro (2003), and Jack Maggs (1997) by Peter Carey.

[Thanks to "the Literary Saloon at the complete review" weblog for the link. The original piece was sourced from the "Shanghai Daily".]

C.J. Dennis and the Sydney Harbour Bridge

"The Australian" newspaper commemorates the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and notes that C.J. Dennis was commissioned by the Berger Paints company to write a poem in celebration. You can read the full version of the poem here, as well as a letter from the company's CEO giving some background to the poem.

World Book Map

Ever wondered how often certain places on the world map are mentioned in books? Well, Matthew Gray, a software engineer at Google did and came up with a map showing just that. You can see the outline of Australia, though most of the west coast is very faint.

The Great Unread

"The Guardian" reports that DBC Pierre's Man Booker prize winning novel, Vernon God Little, tops the list of the books Britons found hard to finish. There is a rather distinguished list here, with Salman Rushdie, JK Rowling, Leo Tolstoy and James Joyce also appearing. I can say I actually finished the novel, but it was a helluva struggle.

Sorry, Who Was That Again?

Here's a curious item which appeared recently in Sarah Weinman's weblog "Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind":

Kimberly Scott's first novel, UNDERTOW, a legal thriller set in Boston, and the first in a series, originally published in Australia by Pan Macmillan under the pseudonym Sydney Bauer, to Carole Baron at Madison Park Press (for an exclusive six-month window) and to Natalee Rosenstein at Berkley, by Harvey Klinger at Harvey Klinger (NA).

Austlit, states simply, in their biographical notes about the author: "Sydney Bauer worked as a television programming executive with the Seven Network."

And yet, Weinman also points us to the author's website, which is pretty slick with enough publicity photos and background to make us wonder: why the pseudonym in the first place? The author is hardly trying to hide her identity.

Australian Poetry

Peter Craven sings the praises of Australian poetry in "The Australian": "English critic Frank Kermode said once that during World War II he had the good fortune to fall into the hands of Australian poets at a time when Australian poetry was more interesting than British poetry. It's an arresting remark, not least because we're always captivated by compliments from eminent people overseas, yet it also highlights the fact that Australian poetry is good, and always has been."

First Tuesday Book Club

For Australian readers be aware that the first 2007 episode of First Tuesday Book Club is on ABC television this evening at 10:00pm. The books under discusion this evening are The Solid Mandala by Patrick White, and Mr Pips by Lloyd Jones, which has a protagonist named Matilda. Have to catch up with that one soon.

The Patrick White Papers

You'll remember the amazing news of last year that announced the discovery of a large cache of papers belonging to Patrick White, previously thought destroyed. Now, Marie-Louise Ayres, Curator of Manuscripts, provides an overview of those papers in the latest issue of the "National Library of Australia News".

Eleven with a Bullet

"Locus Magazine" is reporting that Garth Nix's latest, Lady Friday, has hit #11 on the Amazon UK list a full two weeks before its March 5th publication. The hardcover edition of the novel, published in the US in mid-January, is currently #456 on the Amazon US list.

Norman Lindsay as Metaphor

David Dale makes a case in "The Sydney Morning Herald" for nominating the phrase "a Magic Pudding" as Australia's National Metaphor. After making a list of recognisable metaphors Dale states: "...but my favourite is a metaphor created in the year 1918 by the artist and writer Norman Lindsay, which became so widely used that it ended up with its own entry in the Macquarie Dictionary (defined as 'endlessly renewable resource')...We're talking, of course, about The Magic Pudding. The world, said Lindsay, is divided into Puddin' Owners and Puddin' Thieves. Paul Keating used to call John Howard a Puddin' Thief, and accused the Liberal Party of using Telstra as a Magic Pudding, 'from which they could cut a slice to pay for their election commitments.' More recently environmentalists have argued that we treat this continent as if it were a Magic Pudding, and thus are exhausting its resources."

Oddly enough, the piece is dated 18th February 2007. Time-travel at last?

2007 Victorian Premier's Reading Challenge

The 2007 Victorian Premier's Reading Challenge has been launched and full details are now available.

For those new to this, it is a method of getting children between the ages of 5 and 12 to read more books. The scheme allows children to register, record their reading and track their progress via the web. The challenge is for students in Prep to Year 2 (5 to 7 years) to read 30 titles, and for older children to read 15 books before the close of the challenge in August. In 2006, some 190,000 students took part, with 107,000 completing the challenge.

The website includes a large selection of possible titles, which, even if you aren't undertaking the challenge, is a pretty good reference list. You should be able to find something in there to buy the young reader in your life.

Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Stories

Cat Sparks has pointed out that four Australian writers (with five stories) have made the cut to be included in Ellen Datlow's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2006. The featured stories:

"Father Muerte and the Flesh" by Lee Battersby
"La Profonde" by Terry Dowling
"A Pig's Whisper" by Margo Lanagan
"Winkie" by Margo Lanagan
"Dead Sea Fruit" by Kaaron Warren

February 14th

Everyone seems to think it's Valentine's Day, but actually it's Library Lovers day here in Australia.

Gone on, love your library, you know you want to.

Australian Young Adult Books Honoured

The School Library Journal, based in the US, has released its Outstanding International Booklist of young adult books from 2006. The following Australian books have been included:

Surrender by Sonya Haqtnett
By the River by Stephen Herrick
Dogboy by Victor Kelleher
White Time by Margo Lanagan
The Book Thief by Markus Zusack

It's also pleasing to see that the committee responsible for choosing the list acknowledges that few international (ie non-US) books, not originally published in English, are available in that country. They seem to have done their best given the obvious restrictions. The fact that they have recognised the limitations of the list augurs well for the future.

[Thanks to The :: New :: Misrule Blog for the link.]

Clive James Essay

Clive James has another essay on Slate, "Sergei Diaghilev: On generosity, artistic slobs, and dressing to kill". This is another piece taken from his upcoming collection, Cultural Amnesia.

On Her Selection

One piece that I didn't link to a few weeks back, as I was in Sydney that weekend and didn't get to see the paper, was an essay by Kerryn Goldsworthy published in "The Australian" newspaper, titled "On Her Selection".

In the piece, the author poses the question: "If, on this Australia Day weekend, an international visitor asked you for a crash course in Australianness, what would you suggest they read? What are the books whose accounts of what it means to be Australian have stayed with you? Would they be A Town Like Alice? Wake In Fright?, Possum Magic?"

And then proceeds to answer it. I'll let you find what what she recommends. Be ready for something of a surprise near the end. One of her selections was published quite recently.

Australian Authors in India

Back at the start of January I posted about a number of Australian authors who were traveling to India to take part in the 2007 Kolkata Book Fair, held at the end of January.

Margo Lanagan has been writing about her exploits there on her weblog "Among Amid While", and now the Kolkata Newsline website has reported on their visit. "For Australian authors John Zubrzycki, Margo Lanagan and Thomas Keneally, the evening at Oxford Bookstore last week was an occasion to acquaint Kolkata about the richness of Australian literature and also imbibe in their short visit as much of local literature as they can. In town for the Kolkata Book Fair that got deferred to a later date, the trio made use of the opportunity to soak in as much of the city as they could."

Cultural Amnesia by Clive James

Cultural Amnesia (subtitled "Necessary Memories from History and the Arts") is an upcoming collection of essays from the pen of Clive James. His American publisher describes the book as follows: "Containing over one hundred original essays, organized by quotations from A to Z, Cultural Amnesia illuminates, rescues, or occasionally destroys the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century."

Publication is scheduled for March in the US, and at the start of April here in Australia. The Literary Saloon informs us that essays from the collection will be published on the "Slate" website over the coming weeks. The first of these is now available and concerns the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova.

First Tuesday Book Club

Further to the previous posting which mentioned the "First Tuesday Book Club", the program has now posted excerpts from past episodes along with a number of author interviews of people such as Patrick White, Frank Hardy, Shirley Hazzard, Mary Gilmore and Sally Morgan.

You have just got to check out the wonderful first episode in the series, screened last August, which featured Peter Cundall's reaction to American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

New Patrick White to Read

Well, actually, it's an old book, but "new" as in previously "unread". Anyway, the Patrick White Readers' Group has announced that The Solid Mandala will be the next entry in their PW reading program.

They also mention that "The First Tuesday Book Club" will return to ABC television on March 6th, with its two books under discussion being, yes, The Solid Mandala, and Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.

Locus Recommended Reading List for 2006

Locus, "The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field" as it styles itself, has released its recommended reading list for 2006.

No Australian books are listed under the SF, Fantasy or First novel categories which I find a tad strange. You'll remember that only a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that this same magazine listed Passarola Rising by Azhar Abidi as their best sf novel of the year.

Anyway, Justine Larbalestier, Garth Nix, and Scott Westerfeld are all listed under the YA novels category, making up 5 of the 11 novels included. Terry Dowling (for Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear) and Margo Lanagan (for Red Spikes) make the Collections list; Jack Dann (twice with Gardner Dozois) and Jonathan Strahan (four times, once with Jeremy G. Byrne) are included under Anthologies; Justine Larbalestier also makes the non-fiction list with Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century; under Novellas we have Greg Egan; and under Short Stories Terry Dowling and Margo Lanagan (thrice).

I hope I didn't miss anyone.

[Thanks to Justine Larbalestier for the link.]

Best Australian Speculative Fiction of 2006

Chris Lawson, over at the co-operative weblog "Talking Squid", gives a rundown on the best Australian speculative fiction of 2006. And a pretty good list it is too. I sent in a suggestion of Passarola Rising by Azhar Abidi. I'm becoming more intrigued by this novel the more I read about it, so I'll make a concerted effort to get to it soon.

2007 Australian Literary Anniversaries

Notable Australian authors born in 1957: Allan Atwood, Nick Cave, Liam Davison, Sara Douglass, Anthony Lawrence, Hannie Rayson, Kim Scott, and Lucy Sussex.

Notable Australian authors who died in 1957: Will Lawson.

Major novels published in 1957: The Big Story by Morris West, Call Me When the Cross Turns Over by D'Arcy Niland, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, One-a-Pecker, Two-a-Pecker by Ruth Park, Outbreak of Love by Martin Boyd, Seedtime by Vance Palmer, They're a Weird Mob by Nino Culotta, and Voss by Patrick White.

Hodder and Stoughton Publishing house was established in 1957 and the NSW Bookstall Company ceased trading.

2007 "Age" Short Story Competition Second Runner-Up

The third place-getter, or second runner-up (whichever you prefer) in "The Age" short story competition has now been published. The story is "Suckered into a Perfect Line" by Bill Collopy.

Seamus Heaney, Les Murray and Derek Walcott

In the midst of praising the TS Eliot Prize judges, Boyd Tonkin likens the winner, Seamus Heaney, to two other great modern poets: Les Murray and Derek Walcott. "Poetry specialists may scorn as pure fiction the special category into which I tend to slot Seamus Heaney from County Derry, Les Murray from the Manning River, New South Wales, and Derek Walcott from the island of St Lucia. Sure enough, they can differ vastly in outlook and approach, Yet each of this trio of giants is both earthy and ecstatic, local and global, imbued with the past but alert to the present. And each has consistently tested and deepened the ties between Eliot's poetic 'tradition' and the 'individual talent' that modifies it."

Locus Magazine Best of the Year

It's taken a little while to get here but now Claude Lalumière has chosen his best SF, Fantasy and Horror of 2006 for Locus Magazine.

His choice for best sf novel of the year: Passarola Rising by Azhar Abidi, which he describes as follows: "For his debut novel, Azhar Abidi combines two archetypal SF subgenres, the alternate history and the fantastic voyage. The premise: what if, in eighteenth-century Portugal, Bartolomeu Lourenço had been permitted to build and fly the airship he had designed? Abidi concocts a rousing adventure novel in which the eighteenth century comes alive as a truly alien world and in which the profound bond between two brothers (Lourenço's brother Alexandre narrates the tale) is explored with depth and

Australian Speculative Fiction

If you're wondering what is happening these days in Australian Speculative Fiction then I recommend that you have a look at Ben Peek's review of the short fiction nominees in the 2007 Aurealis Awards.

After an introduction to the awards Peek treats each of the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Young Adult nominees to a detailed critical examination. He cries off the Children's section as he doesn't feel qualified to review them, and that, in itself, should give you some sense that this bloke takes his work seriously. Now, if we could find someone to do the same for the novels we'd be well covered.

Garth Nix Aligned with J.K. Rowling 2

Further to my note on Monday about the British retailer WH Smith giving away copies of a Garth Nix novel with every pre-order for the upcoming and last Harry Potter novel, the Nix novel in question is The Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday. This is the first novel in the author's fantasy series which is planned to feature seven books in total.

A correspondent informed me that this is the next step in an evolving book marketing cycle which has also featured book chains selling "bespoke" editions of some books, ie with specific and individual book covers.

I wonder if the next step for these chains is to sell combined editions of several books in a series, or back-to-back publications like the old Ace doubles of the 50s and 60s. You can expect some interesting volumes on sale when the print-on-demand technology becomes widespread.

2007 "Age" Short Story Competition Runner-Up

The "Age" has now published the runner-up in their 2007 Short Story Competition: "Remaking the Image of this World" by Shane Jesse Christmass. The winner was published last week, and the second runner-up will appear next weekend.

Garth Nix Aligned with J.K. Rowling

I almost titled this with an "in bed" phrasing, but decided that would be too tabloid and tacky.

"The Guardian" is reporting (about halfway down the item) that W.H. Smith - a major UK newsagent and bookseller - is offering a free copy of a Garth Nix book with all pre-orders for the seventh and last Harry Potter novel by J.K. Rowling.

Interesting publicity technique if nothing else. Hopefully it will introduce Nix to a number of children who have been looking for something to read between Potter instalments.

Reading Victoria

The State Library of Victoria has launched its "Reading Victoria" program, which is "is a summer reading program that will take you on a journey around the state." The basic idea is for readers to vote on the book that best exemplifies a sense of place - a sense of Victoria, actually. In support of the program, and to allow for interaction with participants, they have also started a blog.

The 20 novels on the shortlist are:

Shadowboxing by Tony Birch
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
The Art of the Engine Driver by Steven Carroll
Monkey Grip by Helen Garner
Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy
Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett
My Brother Jack by George Johnston
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Stiff by Shane Maloney
Sunnyside by Joanna Murray-Smith
Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman
The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas
Players by Tony Wilson
Cafe Scheherazade by Arnold Zable

A quick run through reveals that I've read a grand total of seven of these - pathetic really.

Today's "Age" carries an excerpt from Tiffany's novel, which does not seem to be available on their website.

2007 "Age" Short Story Competition Winner

"The Age" newspaper has published the winner of this year's Short Story Competition: "From the Wreck" by Robert Williams.

The second-placed story, "Remaking the Image of the World" by Shane Jesse Christmass, will be published next week.

Upcoming Australian Books of Interest

"The Age" and "The Australian" have released their annual lists of upcoming books, so I thought I'd pick out the highlights as well as adding a few others that I've found. Fiction is identified with an "F".


And Hope to Die, J.M. Calder (Penguin) F


Love Without Hope, Rodney Hall (Picador) F
Another Country, Nicholas Rothwell (Black Inc)


The Time We Have Taken, Steven Carroll (Fourth Estate) F
The Pepper Gate, Genna De Bont (UQP) F
Chain of Evidence, Garry Disher (Text) F
Born to Run, Cathy Freeman (Penguin)
The Secret of Lost Things, Sheridan Hay (Fourth Estate) F
Napoleon's Double, Antoni Jack (Giramondo) F
Ochre & Rust: Objects of the Australian Frontier, Philip Jones (Wakefield Press)
The Widow and Her Hero, Tom Keneally (Random House) F
Magic's Child, Justine Larbalestier (Penguin) F
Shearwater, Andrea Mayes (Penguin) F
The Keys to the Kingdom 5: Lady Friday, Garth Nix (HarperCollins) F


Love and the Platypus, Nicholas Drayson (Scribe) F
The Raw Shark, Steven Hall (Text) F
Cultural Amnesia, Clive James (Picador)
Alice in La-La Land, Sophie Lee (Random House)
Shattered, Gabrielle Lord (Hachette) F
Turner's Paintbox, Paul Morgan (Penguin) F
The End of the World, Paddy O'Reilly (UQP) F
The Anzacs, Peter Pedersen (Penguin)
Cherry Pie, Leigh Redhead (Allen & Unwin) F


Summer Psychic, Jessica Adams (Allen & Unwin) F
I, Nigel Dorking, Mary-Anne Fahey (Penguin) F
Bali, Cameron Forbes (Black Inc)
All my Mob, Ruby Langford Ginibi (UQP)
Amongst the Dead, Robert Gott (Scribe) F
The Forgotten Children, David Hill (Random House)
Sorry, Gail Jones (Random House) F
Burning In, Mireille Juchau (Giramondo) F
Black Diamonds, Kim Kelly (HarperCollins) F
The Lamb Enters the Dreaming, Robert Kenny (Scribe)
Sucked In, Shane Maloney (Text) F
Kickbaks, Carol Overington (Allen & Unwin)
High & Dry, Guy Pearse (Penguin)
El Dorado, Dorothy Porter (Picador) F
The Night Ferry, Michael Robotham (Sphere) F
The Gospel of Gods and Crocodiles, Elizabeth Stead (UQP) F
Saturn Returns, Sean Williams (Ace) F


Aphelion, Emily Ballou (Picador) F
The River Baptists, Belinda Castles (Allen & Unwin) F
The Politics of Climate Change, Clive Hamilton (Black Inc)
Orpheus Lost, Janette Turner Hospital (Fourth Estate) F
Callisto, Torsten Krol (Picador) F
Walking to the Moon, Sean McMullen (Wildside) F
A Little Rain on Thursday, Matt Rubinstein (Text) F


final volume of The Obernewtyn Chroinicles, Isobelle Carmody (Penguin) F
The Beijing Conspiracy, Adrian d'Hage (Penguin) F
The Bright Crosses, Ross Duncan (Picador) F
My Life as a Traitor, Zahra Ghahramani (Scribe)
Vodka Doesn't Freeze, Leah Giarrantano (Random House) F
On Borrowed Time: Australia's Biodiversity Crisis, David Lindenmayer (Penguin)
Whitecap, James Woodford (Text) F


Reel Time, Bruce Beresford (HarperCollins)
The Vietnam Years, Michael Caulfield (Hachette)
Ron McCoy's Sea of Diamonds, Gregory Day (Picador) F
The Ghost's Child, Sonya Hartnett (Penguin) F
The Orphan Gunner, Sarah Knox (Giramondo) F
Bright Air, Barry Maitland (Allen & Unwin) F
Other Country, Stephen Scourfield (Allen & Unwin) F


Trout Opera, Matthew Condon (Random House) F
The Escapist, Tom Gilling (Text) F
Heaven's Net is Wide, Lian Hearn (Hodder) F
Dying: A Memoir, Donald Horne (Penguin)
My Four Aunts, Monica McInerney (Penguin) F
Heritages, Catherine Rey (Giramondo) F
Muck, Craig Sherbourne (Black Inc)
The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas (Random House) F


The Dirty Beat Venero Armanno (UQP) F
The Storm Prophet, Hector Macdnald (Penguin) F
The Mercenary & the Marine, Leigh Sales (MUP)
Blood & Tinsel, Jim Sharman (MUP)
a Peter Temple novel (Text) F
Democracy in America, Don Watson (Random House)


The Lighthouse, David Brooks (UQP) F
Landscape of Farewell, Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin) F


I get the feeling that December 2007 is just a bit too far off at this time.

2006 Best of the Year Lists #4

The "Anchorage Press" lists Theft by Peter Carey as one of its best fiction selections of the year.

Rachel, on the "Boston Book Club Blog", choses a couple of older Australian books on her list of best of 2006: My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey, and The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard.

In "The Observer", Hephzibah Anderson choses Peter Carey's Theft in their best fiction of the year: the novel "careened from Sydney to Toyko to New York, hot on the heels of a has-been painter, his idiot-savant brother and a femme fatale art forger who's handy with a crowbar." Anderson also picks a list for "", along with Craig Seligman, and has Theft in that one as well.

Carey's Theft is also chosen by Jane Rosenthal in South Africa's "Mail & Guardian": "Set in the country of the Illywhacker, the state of Victoria, but now in the 21st century, it has the breadth of view that comes from Carey's long residence in New York."

And finally, "The Age" released its best of the year lists by asking various writers to make their choices: Helen Garner picked Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung; Kate Grenville chose all Australian with Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, Joe Cinque's Consolation by Helen Garner, and The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery; Alex Miller went for the alluring title of The Gods of Freud by Janine Burke; Barry Maitland chose Pilgrimage: A Traveller's Guide to Australia's Battlefields by Garrie Hutchinson, as he has recently tramped around the World War I sites in France; Delia Falconer selected Careless by Deborah Robertson; Colm Toibin went for Bad Faith by Carmen Callil; and Peter Temple was very impressed with Cate Kennedy's short story collection Dark Roots.

And that, I think, is the end of it.

Australian Literary Podcasts

It's been a while since I wrote about Literary Podcasts so I thought it best if I rounded up those I listen to in one place. Podcast download instructions are given on each page but you'll probably need something like Apple's iTunes software. If you set this up properly it will download all your outstanding podcast episodes when they become available - you don't have to download each one in turn. Just start up the software hit "Refresh" in the Podcast section and away you go.

You can download iTunes for free from the Apple site here. Versions are available for both PC and Apple operating systems.

I must state that I am not an advocate for iTunes but it works for me, and you can use it without the need to own an mp3 player such as an iPod. You can download the episodes to your computer's hard drive and listen to them from there. You just lose the advantage of portability.

The Book Show - the biggest and most impressive of the three. Romana Kaval presents The Book Show each weekday on ABC Radio National and, as you might expect from a daily program of this sort, she covers just about everything. Recent programs have covered the "Best of..." poetry collections of 2006, an interview with Kiran Desai about her Man Booker Prize winning novel, a discussion of the year in Australian books, and an interview with Dava Sobel concerning writing about science. Each program runs 30-45 minutes.

Faster Than Light - Grant Stone is one of Australia's great sf fans, being involved in the discussion and promotion of the genre for over 25 years. His Faster Than light radio program is a half-hour weekly effort out of Perth, featuring news, reviews and interviews. His enthusiasm is infectious and his knowledge awesome. He's quite happy to run long interviews with authors, editors, and graphic artists which span two or three episodes, but which don't dominate any one. There's always something here of interest.

Writers Radio - the newest of the three for me as I only discovered it last week. I now have about 40 episodes of 30 minutes each to work through. Presented from Adelaide by Cath Keneally, Writers Radio is a weekly 30-minute program dealing with Australian literature in all its forms. I'm not sure how long it has been running but you can download all episodes from 2006 at present. Covers a lot of newer and unpublished writers, as well as interviewing such people as Dorothy Porter and Bryce Courtenay.

Others: ABC Radio National has a number of other prgrams that occasionally feature literature in one form or another. You might be interested in - Background Briefing, In Conversation, Late Night Live, Lingua Franca, Ockham's Razor, and The Science Show. And there bound to be others I've missed.

Conclusion: if you're anything like me and find it hard to listen to the radio at 10 in the morning, or anytime on weekends, this is the method you should use. Just be aware that some of the podcast episodes are rather large - regular episodes of The Book Show will run to 18MgB - and that they can tend to accumulate very quickly if you don't keep up. I've taken to listening to downloaded podcasts in the train and the car, and while I'm watering the garden. With approximately 80 hours of radio broadcasts waiting it looks like I have a lot of watering to do this summer - within designated restrictions, of course.

Now It's All Literature in Crisis

A couple of weeks back, "The Australian" newspaper reported on the sad state of affairs regarding the study of Australian Literature in Australian Universities. The general thrust of the piece was that, before long, Australian Literature, as a separate course of study, would disappear from our tertiary institutions.

Now, Peter Holbrook, a member of the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts and teacher of English literature at the University of Queensland, writes that the same might well be in store for English Literature as a whole.

[Thanks to the Literary Saloon for the link.]

Patrick White's Papers

You may remember, about a month ago, there was a brief flurry of news regarding the discovery of a large cache of personal papers belonging to Patrick White. If you're wondering what happened to them all, then I suggest you read Austlit's account. The article also contains links to White's papers held in the National Library of Australia (a folder of letters from Salman Rushdie!) and news that the NLA will be holding a Patrick White event sometime in 2007. A display of some of the newly-found papers perhaps?

Australian Writers on Ian McEwan

You've probably heard by now that British novelist Ian McEwan has been accused of plagiarising an historical memoir in his novel Atonement. McEwan wrote a well-reasoned and restrained response to the accusation in "The Guardian". And now a number of authors have come to his defence, including Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Updike, Zadie Smith, Martin Amis, Thomas Pynchon, and our own Tom Keneally and Peter Carey.

Keneally states that "Fiction depends on a certain value-added quality created on top of the raw material, and that McEwan has added value beyond the original will, I believe, be richly demonstrated."

And Carey acknowledges his past work and the "sampling" he has indulged in.

David Malouf on the State of Australian Publishing

David Malouf is appalled at the number of Australian prize-winning and influential novels that are no longer in print, calling it a "national disgrace".

Unless Print-on-Demand technologies start to roll out in the near future, or publishers bite the bullet and put these neglected works back into print, it's hard to see how institutions can teach Australian literature if the set works are not available.

2006 Best of the Year Lists #3

"Publishers Weekly" lists Theft by Peter Carey ("A fallen-from-grace Aussie artist and his mentally handicapped brother are drawn into a counterfeit art conspiracy in Carey's heartbreaking novel.") in its Best Fiction of the year, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ("In this WWII novel narrated by Death, a nine-year-old girl develops a love of books and words, even as life in her small German town starts to unravel.") in its Children's Fiction best for 2006.

The Young Adult Library Services Association has listed its Best Books for Young Adults 2006 and Sonya Hartnett is included for Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf, a novel that was first published here in Australia in 1999. Of more recent vintage, they list also Black Juice by Margo Lanagan, Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier, and I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak.

The lists of best books from Australian newspapers are starting to appear now as well. In "The Australian", Kate Grenville choses Alex Wright's Carpentaria, Helen Garner's Joe Cinque's Consolation and Bain Attwood's Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History; Delia Falconer picks Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot, and The Best Australian Stories 2006, edited by Robert Drewe; Nicholas Rothwell plunks for Tony Roberts's Frontier Justice; Michelle de Kretser choses Josiane Behmoiras's first book, DoraB, a memoir of her mother; Carmen Callil lists Theft by Peter Carey and Everyman's Rules of Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany; Sebastian Barry met the author and was then impressed with Alex Miller's Journey to the Stone Country; Debra Adelaide goes for Ursula Dubosarsky's The Red Shoe, and James Bradley's The Resurrectionist; Frank Moorhouse enjoyed M.J. Hyland's novels How the Light Gets In and Carry Me Down; Peter Temple was amused by Kel Robertson's Dead Set; and Nick Earls picked Tara June Winch's Swallow the Air. Among the critics Peter Craven reveals his catholic taste and went for Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes, Inga Clendinnen's Agamemnon's Kiss, Les Murray's verse in The Biplane Houses, David Malouf's Every Move You Make, and Anson Cameron's Lies I Told About a Girl; Rosemary Sorensen was grateful for Packer's Lunch by Neil Chenoweth, George Megalogenis's The Longest Decade, Kate Grenville's The Secret River, and Andrew McGahan's Underground; and, finally, Jodie Minus chose Ursula Dubosarsky's The Red Shoe and Shaun Tan's The Arrival.

2006 Best of the Year Lists #2

"The Age" literary editor, Jason Steger, has picked up on one book I missed from "The New York Times" 100 Notable Books of the Year list I mentioned a couple of weeks back. In addition to the Robert Hughes memoir, we need to mention Last Evenings on Earth, a collection of stories written by the late Chilean author, Roberto Bolano, and translated by Melbourne poet and academic, Chris Andrews.

The "Christian Science Monitor" picks Peter Carey's Theft as one of its best fiction of the year, and also Robert Hughes's Things I Didn't Know in the memoir category. They add links to their reviews of the books.

Kate Grenville's novel The Secret River is included in "The Independent's" Best World Fiction list compiled by Boyd Tonkin. Barry "Unsworth aside, no period piece showed a finer command of style and structure."

Still in "The Independent", Carmen Callil's Bad Faith is in their Best History Books list: "Callil is one of many historians who, in time-honoured style, seek to address big issues through a biographical focus"; David Thomson's Nicole Kidman appears on the Best Showbiz Books list: "What made it so unusual was that it made no attempt to hide Thomson's infatuation"; San Sombrèro by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch makes the Best Stocking Filler list; and Les Murray's The Biplane Houses is on their Best Poetry selection, a book which "combines his usual linguistic energy and quasi-metaphysical wit".

Nicolette Jones chooses Randa Abdel-Fattah's novel Does My Head Look Big in This? in her best books for younger readers (12+) in "The Sunday Times": "It has humour, intelligence and sharp observation and deserves a wide readership".

"The Washington Post" includes, on their Best Fiction of 2006 list, Kate Grenville's The Secret River, Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey, and Malicious Intent by Kathryn Fox; but none make their top five of the year. On the Best Non-Fiction of 2006 list (previous link, further down the page), The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery is included. Again not one of their top five.

Mark Twain in Australia

Melbourne University Press recently released a new edition of The Wayward Tourist by Mark Twain, an account of his travels in Australia in the mid 1890s. Richard King reviewed the book recently in "The Sydney Morning Herald" and said of it: "As an introduction to the travel writing of one of that firmament's brightest stars, The Wayward Tourist is excellent." Now, Thomas Spurling, a freelance writer living in this country, follows Twain's trail through
Australia and reports on his travels for "Pine Magazine".

2006 Best of Year Lists

A round-up of the Best of Year Lists:

In "The Guardian", Mariella Frostrup chooses: "Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey offers muscular prose and a story that whips its way from Sydney to New York through the pretence of the art world, asks interesting questions and offers a rollicking adventure"; MJ Hyland writes: "My favourite book of 2005/2006 was Jose Saramago's Seeing. It doesn't match Blindness but is extraordinary nevertheless. Saramago is a smart and profoundly strange writer"; and Siri Hustvedt: "Theft by Peter Carey. His sentences always crackle. In Theft, it was the relation between the two brothers and the keen realisation of each voice that I especially loved"; Andrea Levy Chose Kate Grenville's The Secret River; Hilary Mantel: "The novel that has intrigued me most this year is MJ Hyland's Booker-shortlisted Carry Me Down about a giant boy growing up in Ireland in the 1970s. It is impossible to guess what this original talent will produce next"; and Colm Tóibín states "Carmen Callil's Bad Faith is a meticulously researched and shocking account of the rise and the rule of the venal anti-Semite Louis Darquier who, amazingly, held power in Vichy France and was responsible for the deaths of many people. The complex story is told with real narrative skill and contained indignation".

Marcel Berlins, in "The Times", picks Peter Temple's The Broken Shore in his Best of Crime list and describes it as "a wonderful surprise, full of rich characterisation, sharp dialogue, believable emotions and a pungent whiff of small-town Australia. Joe Cashin's guilt over a bungled stakeout has reduced the tough Melbourne cop to a tormented loner in a shabby resort. Aboriginal boys are suspected of killing a local worthy. Seeking the truth provokes a traumatic journey through the town's buried secrets, and those of Cashin's own family."

Still in "The Times" and Gordon Ramsay was impressed with Justin North and his book Becassé which is "is part travelogue, part recipe book and takes us from pigeon farms in Victoria to fishing villages in Tasmania and blood orange farms near Canberra. Some of the recipes are quite cheffy, but at their heart is North's love of properly sourced food. The section on flavoured salts is particularly fascinating."

In the Children's, age 11+ section, Amanda Craig lists "Michael Morpurgo's Alone on the Wide, Wide Sea is also about love and sea. Arthur is sent from Liverpool to Australia to escape the Second World War but finds cruelty and forced labour in the Outback. Years later his daughter Allie makes the return journey alone in a sailing boat. Lyrical and moving, it is one of the former Children's Laureate's best books for years."

It was a bit of a surprise to find any Australian books listed in Canada's "Globe and Mail" but Andrew Nikiforuk chose The Weather Makers: How We are Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery: "Australian paleontologist Tim Flannery's highly critical and maddeningly important analysis of the globe's wacky carbon dictatorship will fuel dinner arguments, spark school debates and rudely challenge the deniers. Flannery's warning is blunt, simple and accurate: Business as usual will mean the inevitable collapse of civilization. He does think we can still prevent chaos with modest behavioural changes that won't send Homo economicus to bankruptcy court."

Later in the same list, Mark Frutkin includes The Secret River by Kate Grenville: "Through the lives of the family of William Thornhill, his wife Sal and their two young children, Grenville delivers a novel that goes to the heart of Australia's settling by British convicts and their uneasy relationship with the aboriginals of that raw, sun-scorched island. She masterfully creates three distinct, believable worlds: down-and-out London in the 1790s; Sydney, Australia, in its first rough days; and a 100-acre freehold surrounded by untamed bush."

And Martin Levin choses Carry Me Down by M. J. Hyland, which is "a very fine book, and its half-daft 11-year-old narrator, John Egan, a truly memorable creation. The novel is his account of a crucial year in his life in a rural Irish cottage not far from Dublin, where he lives with his unemployed, angry and intellectually pretentious father, his now-needy, now-remote mother and his more controlling than loving grandmother. John feels certain that he is destined for greatness, owing to a self-proclaimed genius: an ability to tell when someone is lying -- although, in quasi-autistic fashion, he can't quite work out why people lie."

In "The New Statesman", Christopher Bray says "David Thomson's Nicole Kidman was a scalpel-subtle probing of what it means to be an actor"; and Geoffrey Robertson finds that "Tom Keneally's The Commonwealth of Thieves is thoughtful, readable and revelatory, especially about the admirable Admiral Arthur Phillip, whose humanity and compassion towards Aborigines and convicts was extraordinary in an age of savagery and slavery. The British have never honoured Phillip (probably because he was Jewish), so it is appropriate for Australians to claim him as their 'founding father', without whose leadership the country would have been colonised by the French, who do not play cricket."

There's more than a good chance this won't be the last of them. The Australian papers haven't listed their yet for one thing.

100 Notable Books of the Year

"The New York Times" has released its list of the best 100 books of the year. A quick scan reveals no Australian books in the Fiction section, and only Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir by Robert Hughes in the Non-Fiction.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak have rated The Book Thief by Markus Zusak at the top of their list of best teen books of 2006.

The novel has been given a five-star rating by 101 reviews on the Amazon site. It was published in the US in March 2006, and is still at #639 on the Books best-selling list.

Selected Verse of C.J. Dennis

It's not often that good old "Den" gets much of an outing these days - that is, if you exempt certain scurrilous little web logs where he seems to turn up with monotonous regularity. So it's good to see him get a mention on the web, and especially on non-Australian web pages.

Nancy Pearl has been described by "The New York Times" as "the librarian version of a rock star" for her books Book Lust and More Book Lust, both of which are subtitled "Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason." She has put her name to a website called "Book Lust: A Community for People Who Love Books with Nancy Pearl", which is a series of web pages that encourage submissions from readers.

One of the topics under discussion is the old favourite "Desert Island Books", which raises the question "If you were stranded on a desert island with only 10 books to read, which would you want with you?" It's one that is played around the world and wouldn't be one I took much notice of usually, except, in this case, C.J. Dennis gets mentioned.

It doesn't seem possible to determine the nationality of the authors of these lists so I won't try. let's assume they are international and leave it at that. The relevant submission (it's some way down the page) comes from Leisa, who lists her top ten as:

1. Participating in Nature: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills
2. Selected Verse of CJ Dennis
3. The Mysterious Stranger and other stories - Mark Twain
4. Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende
5. A Portrait in Sepia - Isabel Allende
6. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
7. Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle - Dervla Murphy
8. On a Shoestring to Coorg: An Experience of South India - Dervla Murphy
9. In Ethiopia with a Mule - Dervla Murphy
10. Darling Buds of May - H.E. Bates.

An interesting, and relatively diverse, list indeed - I especially liked the first entry. She seems to want to be sure she stays alive long enough to re-read the other nine. But it's the Dennis entry that catches my eye.

Selected Verse of C.J. Dennis was first published in 1950, some 12 years after Dennis's death, chosen and introduced by Alec H. Chisholm, a man who knew and worked with Dennis, and who published the first major biography of the writer, The Making of the Sentimental Bloke, in 1946. The collection takes poems from Dennis's major works, such as The Sentimental Bloke, Jim of the Hills, Digger Smith, The Glugs of Gosh, Ginger Mick, Blackblock Ballads, The Book for Kids and Doreen, as well as selections from The Backblock Ballads collections and The Singing Garden. It's a good overall introduction to the work of Dennis, taking you through his working career and hitting all the high points. You could do worse than buy a copy if you wanted to find out more about the author that I rate in the top half-dozen Australian poets of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I doubt whether Leisa's inclusion of Dennis on her list will increase his readership but it made my day to see him there.

2006 Best of the Year Lists

Like Christmas decorations in the department stores, the annual "Best of the Year Lists" keep coming out earlier and earlier. The first one for 2006, that I've spotted, is from Publishers Weekly. A quick scan through the list shows two Australian books featured: Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey in the Fiction section, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusack in Children's Fiction.

State Library of Victoria Events

The State Library of Victoria has a couple of upcoming events which should be of interest. On Friday 20th October the Library, in association with Readers' Feast Bookstore, presents David Malouf in conversation with Morag Fraser. Tickets are $12 and $10 concession, and are available exclusively from the bookshop at the corner of Bourke & Swanston streets in Melbourne, or call (03) 9662 4699. The event will be held in the Village Roadshow Theaterette, entry 3, La Trobe St. It starts at 6:30pm.

Also starting on Friday 20th October, but continuing through to 25th February 2007, is the Library's exhibition titled "Heroes & Villians: Australian Comics and their Creators." This will be housed in the Keith Murdoch Gallery on the ground floor. From the Library's webpage: "This free exhibition showcases the colourful history of Australian comics, from the 1940s to today. With a display of rare comic books, original artwork and memorabilia, it celebrates the characters that have entertained generations of Australians, from Captain Atom to Fatty Finn."

October's First Tuesday Book Club

The third instalment of ABC TV's "First Tuesday Book Club" went to air last night and I must admit to being a bit disappointed with it.

The books under discussion were Bill Bryson's new memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and Martin Amis's first novel The Rachel Papers. New panelists this month were actor Penny Cook and tv/radio presenter Peter Berner. They joined compere Jennifer Byrne, and previous reviewers Jason Steger and Marieke Hardy. I assume that Steger and Hardy are slotted in as the regulars, but I missed the September edition of the program as I was overseas, so I'll have to wait till next month to confirm.

Bill Bryson's book was generally well-received by the panel though I came away with the feeling that a few of them thought it a bit too twee for their taste: "not as funny as some of his earlier books", "maybe he's running out of steam" sort of approach. Did I get any idea of whether I'd like the book or not? Nope.

Martin Amis's first novel didn't fair much better. There was some appreciation of his style but the reviewers seemed a bit unmoved by it. Steger said it best when he suggested that he would really have liked to have read the book when it was first published. Giving the idea that if the novel had been ground-breaking in its time, then that plot of ground had been very thoroughly worked over since the mid-1970s.

I missed Peter Cundall's wit and directness, and I longed for some form of flame-thrower level of enthusiasm. I didn't get it. Maybe what is required is for one of the reviewers to take a firm stand - at either end of the love-hate scale - and bludgeon the others on the panel with their deep-felt perceptions. Bring back Cundall I say, and this time let him into the studio with a pitchfork.

Next month's books are: The Mission Song by John Le Carre, and The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard.

A Few Items of Interest

A few books have, or are about to, hit the shelves here in Australia that I thought were of interest. Kate Grenville's Searching for the Secret River was released in late August while I was on holidays so I missed the reviews of it then. As might be expected from the title, it tells Grenville's story of how she came to write The Secret River. Book clubs everywhere sigh with relief.

Text Publishing have re-released Peter Temple's novel In the Evil Day, which first saw the light of day in 2002. According to "The Age" in late August: " He is now writing a novel featuring some of the characters from The Broken Shore, although its hero, Joe Cashin, features only in passing. Temple said he did not want to create another 'series character. I'm not abandoning Jack Irish (who has featured in several of his novels) and having got some distance I'm feeling better about going back. If you do them too often the characters get bored with you and you get bored with them.'...He has written Valentine's Day, an original TV screenplay that will go into production in April, and adapted for television his first novel, Bad Debts." So it's good to see he's keeping busy.

The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton

"The Australian" newspaper is reporting that new writer, Kate Morton, is receiving major interest in the manuscript of her novel. "According to her publisher, Allen & Unwin, her novel, The Shifting Fog, has been sold to 11 countries and advances for it and her second novel are approaching $1 million."

Morton's deal is being compared to that received by Chloe Hooper for her novel A Child's Book of True Crime, which was later shortlisted for the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction.

It is interesting to note that the article in "The Australian" refers to Morton as a first-time novelist and yet also mentions that she has had two previous novels rejected.

Working Dogs in the USA

It's peculiar where you find Australian books cropping up these days. Now comes the news that Phaic Tan, the bogus travel guide by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch (the guys from Working Dog), has been recommended as one of best beach books of the year by "The Village Voice".

[Thanks to The Literary Saloon for the link, though I guess they were looking at the more literary side of the list.]

Nobel Prize Anyone?

In last weekend's "Australian" newspaper, Peter Craven raised the question of whether or not Australia would ever win another Nobel Prize for Literature. It's a reasonable enough parlour game, I've played it myself, so it is always interesting to have a look at the likely, and unlikely, candidates. I say "another" because, as most of us will be aware, Patrick White is Australia's only previous winner of the award, picking up the gong in 1973. The Nobel Prize committee makes it a specific point that a writer's nationality has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they win the prize. Fair enough. But it makes for a pretty boring discussion. The main prize website studiously does not list either the laureates' nationality, nor their language of choice, so I had to consult Wikipedia to get a nationality breakdown. And a pretty interesting one it is too. Top country so far is France, and I wouldn't have picked that. The USA maybe - they run a close second, 13 laureates to 12 - but how many French novelists can you name off the top of your head. Probably no more than four or five who might have been eligible some time in the twentieth century. This is not to denigrate French literature, by no means, it is more an indication of how little we see of it translated and available in far-flung outposts such as Australia. It's just a strange result, is all. Though I must point out that Wikipedia does include Gao Xingjian as French, as he lives there, and I have heard of him. But leaving aside the top countries what about the ones at the other end of the scale that have only won one Literature prize? It makes for interesting reading: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Columbia, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Finland, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Yugoslavia.

Only one each for China and India? Strange. Switzerland has been awarded 2. Needless to say, English is the most awarded language with 26 laureates, followed by French with 13, German with 12, and Spanish with 10. Maybe Australia can point to this statistic as an indicator for why they have only been awarded one prize: Australian works written in English might well get lost in the ruck of the vast numbers of novels, plays and poetry written in that language. Just a thought. But to return to Craven's original article, the list of authors who might be under consideration is an interesting one; mostly for the authors he looks at that you might never consider an even faint possibility. Amongst the usual suspects of Peter Carey, Les Murray, David Malouf, Tom Keneally, Germaine Greer, Clive James, and Shirley Hazzard, you'll also find him talking about Peter Porter, Helen Garner, Robert Hughes, Murray Bail, Tim Winton, Elizabeth Jolley, and Sonya Hartnett; the last of those made my eyebrows head skywards. Craven gradually works his way through this list (although not in this order), praising in turn and dismissing their chances: not enough work produced, not enough variation, too early, aybe too late.

And he comes down to two: Carey and Murray. Peter Carey he deals with first and, while admitting the author may well win it one day, he finds it hard to imagine Carey doing so before such writers as Milan Kundera or John Updike. It's hard to argue with that point. So Craven comes down on the side of Les Murray, "the nation's most famous poet". Of the world's great poets, such as Walcott, Heaney and Brodsky, only Murray has not been awarded the prize. As Craven puts it, of Australian writers "..only Murray would not have his reputation significantly enhanced if he did win it." This year? No, can't see it happening. Writers in English have won three of the past 5 prizes which may have some influence. I know writers in English won three years in a row recently (1991 to 1993) but I also seem to remember some backlash against that succession of wins. So, no, not this year. But I reckon within five years we'll get to see the big fella in a monkey suit. I'd better get reading. Don't want to be caught being as ignorant of Murray as I am of Patrick White when I've had fair warning.

Hartnett Outs Herself

In an article published in yesterday's "Sunday Age", Sonya Hartnett confirms that she is "Cameron S. Redfern", author of a controversial new novel.

"Landscape With Animals is different from my other work: its aims are different, its audience is different, its themes more complex, its touch more subtle, and it seemed fitting it should bear a name fresher than my own. I am not trying to hide from it, or deny it, or treat it off-handedly. If anything, this book is a more original and true story than any I have written."

She also answers those critics who have described it as pornographic, saying the novel "is not pornography because it is, at its heart, a book about love: it examines the rare and extreme kind of love that is balanced on the finest of blades, love that can tip people either way: into joy and fulfilment and the creation and continuation of life, or into moral and emotional devastation and the termination of life...It is the kind of love that people die for, and kill for, the love that heals or ravages hearts. This is an affair, but it is in no way a fling. The characters are steeped in the principles of social existence, in discipline and responsibility, and the novel explores what happens when these principles are no longer sufficient to keep a person vital and afloat - and apart."

My view: if Hartnett's written it, then it's worth reading.

Blogging and the NSW Premiers' Literary Awards Dinner

One of the great things about reading weblogs is the different perspectives they provide: different from each other and, specifically, different from the mainstream media.

Anyone reading this weblog will be aware of the mentions that Australian literature gets in the local and national newspapers and magazines; basically not a lot. The only comparable form of human endeavour that I can think of that receives a similar coverage is science. The odd piece will turn up here and there, but they only serve to accentuate the relative absence of commentary, rather than providing adequate coverage.

So it's great to be able to read pieces like Jonathan Shaw's latest posting on his Family Life weblog. Jonathan attended the dinner on Monday night where the winners of the 2006 NSW Premiers' Literary Awards were announced, and has written his comments on the night's proceedings, including selected comments from the speeches. This is great stuff.

In the UK the Booker Prize dinner and presentation ceremony are televised live. Something I'd like to see in this country. In the meantime we have to rely on bloggers like Jonathan to deliver something like:

NSW Premier's Prize for Literary Scholarship won by Terry Collits, Postcolonial Conrad: Paradoxes of Empire (as tipped by me). He gave a very funny speech, in which he spoke about "pollies" and ended by suggesting that John Howard might consider The Life of Mr Polly as a possible title for an autobiography.

Andrew Denton and DBC Pierre

For Australian readers, DBC Pierre will be appearing on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton, ABC TV's interview program, on Monday 22nd May, at 9:35pm. Should be interesting. Transcripts of interviews are normally loaded to the website within a day or so of the program going to air. Looks like the program has started podcasting as well. More on what's available next week.

"The Guardian's" 50 Books You Must Read

kimbofo, over at her Reading Matters weblog, alerted me to a list that has been put together by a bunch of "Guardian" journos. The list comprises 50 books that have been made into quality films. I have highlighted the ones I've read and was surprised to find I'd read 26 of the 50. There are maybe 10 or so more I'll attempt at some time but some I'll never get to reading. I mean, honestly, Watership Down? No offence but I can't see it as my cup of tea.

The list:
1984 by George Orwell
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and other stories by Annie Proulx
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Different Seasons (includes The Shawshank Redemption) by Stephen King
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard
Fight Club by Chuck Pahluniak
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
Goodfellas by Nicholas Pileggi
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Jaws by Peter Benchley
LA Confidential by James Ellroy
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Orlando by Virgina Woolf
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
Sin City by Frank Miller
Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatjee
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbitt
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carré
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
The Vanishing by Tim Krabbé
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Trainspotting by Irvine Walsh
Watership Down by Richard Adams

Australian Author Interview Time

Margo Lanagan is interviewed by Joe Gordon over on the Forbidden Planet web site.

Wendy James talks (via email) with Hope Nesmith of The Compulsive Reader.

And Geraldine Brooks is interviewed by "The Sunday Times". Don't try to access this interview via the main page of the books section, they've messed up their links.

New Australian YA LitBlog

The good people over at the Centre for Youth Literature, based at the State Library of Victoria, have launched a new litblog aimed at the YA audience. The weblog, Inside of a Dog, will feature resident authors - the first of which will be Nick Earls - a blog, reader reviews, contests; the whole damn thing really.

Lili Wilkinson and Mike Shuttleworth were interviewed by Romana Kaval on ABC Radio's Book Show earlier in the week. Their reaction was that she was "playing devil's advocate perhaps". Maybe she was but her approach didn't come across at all well. Rather than being interested in what the web site intended to do she seeemd very worried that users of the site might be seduced away from reading actual books to just browsing, or even to reading books on screen. I came away with the impression that the interviewer couldn't get her head around what they were attempting to do. Mike and Lili handled it far better than I could have. They were very generous in their appraisal of the interview.

Download the mp3 file and have a listen.

Text Publishing and The Secret River

You'll recall that a couple of months back I posted a piece about Text Publishing and the first edition of Kate Grenville's novel The Secret River. In essence the subject at that time was the lack of any identifying text on the outside of the cloth case. I included a photo to indicate what I meant.

So I'm in a book shop the other day and for some reason or other decided to see if any changes had been made to the printing. And, lo and behold, the book's cloth spine now carries the title and the author's name. I checked the copyright page and found that this was now the third printing. I don't know if the change was made for the second printing, but it is certainly there now. And a good thing too.

March by Geraldine Brooks

There's a big discussion going on over at Jeff Marriotte's weblog regarding Geraldine Brooks's novel March. TV tie-ins, Buffy, Conan the Barbarian, and Star Wars all get a look-in.

[Thanks to Lee Goldberg for the link.]

Editing and Publishing

In the midst of making some interesting comments of his own about the business of Publishing and the process of Editing GOB Michael Allen links to an interview with Ben Ball, the new head of Penguin in Australia. Conclusion: manuscripts aren't being edited to the extent they have been in the past. Put it down to finances and a lack of expertise.

Publishing and Promotion

Justine Larbalestier wrote a piece on her weblog titled "a writer's job (updated)" [she doesn't use caps] which has elicited some interesting discussion on the subject of the promotion of books, and a writer's role in it. Such people as Garth Nix, Patrick and Teresa Neilsen Hayden, and Jeff VanderMeer have their say. There is agreement, of sorts, which seems to come down to: "a writer should do as much promotion of their work as they feel capable of". I think. In any event, it's worth reading, especially as you get both authors' and publishers' viewpoints.

New York Public Radio - Australian Authors

I was led to the New York Public Radio site for an interview with Markus Zusak and found that Tim Flannery is there as well. Both interviews are available as downloadable podcasts.

[Thanks to Judith Ridge at The Misrule Blog for the link.]

Tim Flannery Interviewed

As his book on climate change is published in the US, Tim Flannery is interviewed in Wired magazine.

The comments by readers of this interview are interesting. Most set out to disagree with Flannery or to push another barrow. The best of them: "Flannery's words would carry a lot more weight if he weren't trying to sell a book. Nothing sells books like good 'ole fear."

The trouble is, mate, you wouldn't listen if he didn't have a book out, 'cos then you'd just say he didn't have any evidence to back up his arguments. He can't win either way, and you're stuck in a very deep rut.

[Thanks to the folks at mediabristro GalleyCat for the link.]

Online Serialised Crime Novella

Over at The Australian Reader website Kate Smith is publishing a crime novella online in serialised form. The current episode is number 6, with the previous entries all available. There will be 13 episodes in all with a new one being published each Friday.

The novella, Wishbone Street, is illustrated by Ashley J Higgs and the author describes it as a story that "combines elements of the supernatural, crime, romance, humour and drama."

Notes on Australian Books

I've mentioned Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers here a few times over the past few weeks, which seems only fair as a) it's an important book, and b) I'm reading it. (Note: the second doesn't necessarily follow the first, but on this occasion I'll run with it.)

Now comes the news from "The Telegraph" that there are some changes with the book's cover between the UK and US editions. The UK edition - which is the one I have - features a certain Bill Bryson blurbing: "It would be hard to imagine a better or more important book." Fair enough, he's written that big science book recently - the title escapes me - and he's pretty popular in the UK. It seems, however, that the book's US publishers have opted for British PM Tony Blair in preference. He states: "The Weather Makers provides insights not only into the history, the science and politics of climate change, but also the actions people can take now that will make a difference". "The Telegraph" then goes on to explain: "Mr Blair may not be as popular as Mr Bryson in England but the Americans certainly know an expert on hot air when they see one."

Luckily Mr Blair was here in Melbourne last night for the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games so he won't notice this little joke at his expense. My visiting English friends will, however, blow hot coffee out their nostrils when they read this.

An Author Responds

In "The Australian" last week, Nicolas Rothwell, reviewed Lost World of the Kimberley: Extraordinary Glimpses of Australia's Ice Age Ancestors by Ian Wilson. So what?, you might think. Well, Wilson has responded to that review, and his response is printed in this weekend's edition of the paper.

To be blunt, the original review gets really stuck into the book on pretty much all levels: research, coverage, theory, you name it.

One hardly knows whether to laugh or weep on being confronted with such a bizarrely multiplicit book: at once a layman's overview of recent steps in Australian archeology and rock art research, an account of one man's brief Kimberley trip and an exploration of certain unverifiable personal enthusiasms that even the author, in his wiser moments, half-ascribes to his "overactive imagination."
The problems with Wilson's project lie as much in the manner of its undertaking as in the specifics of his critique and his claims of discovery. The north Kimberley is a subtle, recalcitrant place that discloses its tone and the relation of its parts only over the slow passage of years. There are many serious writers and historians who have spent half a lifetime travelling its remote quarters, yet would not dare to boast that they have come close to its core.

Wilson, by contrast, presents a 300-page book of grand interpretation on the basis of a few shepherded days.

Which leaves little room for mis-interpretation. And the reviewer doesn't restrict his criticism to the author alone: "If a leading Australian publisher [Allen & Unwin] feels licensed to put out such material in the quest for profit, then we have reached a sad moment in the degeneration of the nation's writing culture."

This a classic "bad review", but a review of the work alone. The only criticisms of the author relate to the book, the research that went into it, and the conclusions that were drawn and which are printed.

I went back though the original review looking for personal attacks, snide remarks, anything that might invalidate Rothwell's conclusions. There are a couple that might fit the bill. He talks of Wilson's "prevailing system of hobbyhorses and beliefs about the prehistoric past" - which is fair enough given Wilson has written some 20 or so books with titles such as Jesus: The Evidence and The Turin Shroud: Unshrouding the Mystery. You wouldn't read either of those without having an inkling that the author had some theory or other he wanted to present. Referring to such theories as "hobbyhorses" might be seen as being a tad provocative, but it's hardly libellous. Slightly later in the review Rothwell notes that when Wilson travelled to the Kimberley he "passed through Kununurra, noting the presence of 'very black-skinned' Aboriginal people (the shock! The surprise!), and spent a few days travelling the bush with a tour guide." It's a cheap shot and really should have been excised by the sub-editor. Maybe it can be excused on the basis that he might have written a lot worse. But it's pretty juvenile stuff all the same.

And that's all there is. Overall, Rothwell thinks Ian Wilson did not do a good job in writing his book. And he says so.

Normally, that would be the end of it. "The Australian", however, has seen fit to print the author's response.

This is never a good idea, other than to correct factual errors. Even praise for the review isn't good, as it only tends to put the author in a bad light. Anyway, the response is here. I don't think it improves Wilson's position one jot.

Reviews of Aurealis Award Nominees

A month or so ago, I posted about the Aurealis Awards, honouring the best in long and short Australian fiction in the fields of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult and Children's.

Ben Peek, of The Urban Sprawl weblog, has now written reviews of all the nominated short fiction on the Strange Horizons website. Along the way he has a number of very interesting things to say about the new nominating process which have elicited some interesting comments and discussion from such writers as Lucy Sussex, Justine Larbalestier and Leanne Frahm. It appears some tweaking of the process is in order. The aim should be to open up the nominations as widely as possible. That hasn't happened this year.

The Book Show

Until the end of last year, ABC Radio National's flagship literature program, "Books and Writing", was a once-a-week affair presented by Ramona Kaval. With the start of the new 2006 programming schedule this has now changed to a daily literature program, "The Book Show", again presented by Kaval.

The program has been running for a couple of weeks now and I must say I'm pretty impressed with the work being undertaken. The programs aren't stored for podcast download - which is a bit restricting - but they are available for audio streaming so you can listen to them whenever you like, so long as you're near a web browser.

Today's program (which airs at 10:00am, a time when I don't have access to a radio at work) is a replay of the Malcolm Knox Overland lecture, titled "The Fate of Publishing". An excerpt of this lecture was published in "The Sydney Morning Herald" a few weeks back.

Recent programs have included an interview with Norman Lindsay from the archives, a talk by Shane Carmody about the new age of libraries, and an interview with Rosemary Cameron, the incoming director of the Melbourne Writers' Festival. It's a good line-up. Kaval is an experienced, relaxed and informed presenter. If you're at all interested in literature in Australia you should check it out. Long may it run.

Locus Recommended Reading List

Locus, the news magazine of the sf and fantasy genres, has released its annual recommended reading lists for works published in 2005.

Australian works on the list include:

Godplayers, Damien Broderick

First Novel
Magic or Madness, Justine Larbalestier
Spotted Lily, Anna Tambour

Young Adult
Midnighters Vol 2: Touching Darkness, Scott Westerfeld
Peeps, Scott Westerfeld

Across the Wall, Garth Nix

Nebula Awards Showcase 2005, Jack Dann
Fantasy: The Best of 2004, Karen Haber & Jonathan Strahan
Science Fiction: The Best of 2004, Karen Haber & Jonathan Strahan
Best Short Novels 2005, Jonathan Strahan

Short Stories
"Matricide", Lucy Sussex

If I've missed anyone off the list, my apologies, write and let me know and I'll update this entry.

[Update: just fixing Scott Westerfeld's name, and adding Anna Tambour to the First Novel list.]

Literary Hoaxes

With the fun and jollity generated over the past week or so by James Frey's A Million Little Pieces - was it or was it not a "true" memoir - and the identity of author JT Leroy - drug addict or just "a naughty boy/girl" - CBC provide a list of the great literary hoaxes. And it's good to see our own Ern Malley scoring an entry. This later became the inspiration behind Peter Carey's novel, My Life as a Fake.

[Thanks to Bookslut for the link.]

Non Sequitur by Wiley

Wikipedia defines it as "Non Sequitur is a comic strip created by Wiley Miller in 1991 and syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate to over 700 newspapers. The strip can be found online at, although archives are only viewable with an account. Non Sequitur is often political and satirical, though other times, purely comedic." If you get the chance have a look at the January 12, 2006 edition. (It's in today's "Age" but not up on the official site as yet.) It is titled "The Glamour of Writing" and depicts a typical book signing in a book-store: the first has a sign saying "Meet the Author", the second "Meet an actor who plays a minor role in the film adaptation of the book!" No guesses where the line is.

Second Novel Syndrome

Malcolm Knox, author of A Private Man and reviewer for "The Sydney Morning Herald", writes of Second Novel Syndrome, that curious affliction that causes some novellists to clam up after their first publication. Unfortuately, he uses DBC Pierre as an example. Pierre won the Booker a few years back with his debut novel Vernon God Little. Knox writes:

This year, the highest-profile second novel anywhere in the world will be DBC Pierre's Ludmila's Broken English. Pierre published his debut, Vernon God Little, at the age of 42 and won the Booker Prize. Two years ago, when he was visiting Sydney, I asked him if Vernon God Little had taught him how to write. He was working on Ludmila's Broken English at the time. "I've discovered that it didn't teach me how to write this book," he said. "It only taught me how to write that book."
Unfortunately? Well, as The Literary Saloon puts it: "Alas, readers also discovered it didn't teach him to write any book -- it was a pretty poor piece of work. Indeed, we figure the only hope we have is if he learned from his mistakes. But given how many there were, it's a tall order ..... "

Interviews with SF Authors

Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction is a monthly half-hour television series about science fiction, fantasy and horror produced by leading lights of Baltiomore and Washington DC fandom. Each show includes an interview with an author, book reviews, news etc. Those interviewed include Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Bruce Sterling, Jack Williamson, Connie Willis and our own Garth Nix. The interviews, in both audio and video formats, are available on the site. The Nix interview is 14.3 MB and runs about 19 minutes.

Year's Best 2005 - Various

Karen Joy Fowler chooses March by Geraldine Brooks as her best work of fiction for the year in "The Washington Post".

Margo Lanagan's story collection Black Juice has been selected as one of the Horn Book Fanfare books of the year for Young Adults.

Markus Zusak gets listed amongst the Best Children's Fiction Books of the year in Publisher's Weekly for I am the Messenger.

"The Australian" published its collection of the year's best books last week, using the technique of asking a bunch of their critics to do it for them.

In "The Daily Telegraph", Gideon Haigh's Ashes 2005: The Greatest Test Series is selected as one of the year's best Sports books.

Year's Best 2005 - "Sydney Morning Herald"

"The Sydney Morning Herald" has announced its list of the best of Australian Literature for 2005.

Best Fiction:
The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Original Face by Nicholas Jose

Best Crime:
The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

Best Fantasy:
Slaughterboy by Odo Hirsch

Best Young Adult:
How Hedley Hopkins Did A Dare .. by Paul Jennings
Ziggy and the Plugfish by Jonathan Harlen
The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett

Best Debut:
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany

Best Non-Fiction:
The Commonwealth of Thieves by Tom Keneally
Telling the Truth About Aboriginal History by Bain Attwood
Snowtown by Jeremy Putney

Best Poetry:
Geology by Kevin Murray
The People Singers by John Millett
Unfinished Journey by Michael Thwaites
Freehold by Geoff Page
The Well Mouth by Philip Salom
The New Arcadia by John Kinsella
Friendly Fire by Jennifer Maiden
The Past Completes Me: Selected Poems 1973-2003 by Alan Gould

Comment: I've read a grand total of two of these - the Temple and the Hartnett. Kate Grenville and Tom Keneally are on my summer reading list. Not a good return after my 2005 intention to read a lot more Australian literature. I put it down to reading a lot that was published in 2004. Well, I have to find some excuse.

Nicholas Shakespeare

In "The Guardian" Nicholas Shakespeare discusses the flash of inspiration that lead to his novel Snowleg, which has just been longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

"The Sunday Times" Best Books 2005

Continuing the series of Best Books of 2005 comes the list from "The Sunday Times" which includes The Turning by Tim Winton.

Linked stories are compellingly deployed in Tim Winton's The Turning (Picador £16.99). Zigzagging across decades, switching between men and women, young and old, tales told in very diverse voices interlock into a multifaceted display of intricately interconnected existences in a backwater town in his native western Australia. Written with exhilarating vigour, the stories ripple with subtlety and nuance.

"New York Times" Notable Books 2005

The "New York Times" has released its list of Notable Books for 2005 with the following Australian books included: Slow Man by J.M. Coetzee Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman

[Thanks to Bookslut for the link.]

Jack Bradstreet, Gentleman Bookseller

Jack Bradstreet, long-time owner of the eponymous bookshop near Glenferrie Station in Hawthorn, is interviewed in today's "Age". Jack is a bit of a legend in my local area. He lived just around the corner until a few years ago and can still be seen in his old shop helping out from time to time.

Australian SF/Fantasy Writers

American writer Jeff VanderMeer has been out interviewing Australian SF/Fantasy writers, and you can find the results over on his weblog.

[Thanks to Matthew Cheney of Mumpsimus for the link.]

The SF and Fantasy Side of the Street

Jason Steger, literary editor for "The Age", writes of his experiences reading the latest HP novel. He set himself the task of reading the book straight through without a break. Seems like he'll now need a massage, a cup of tea and a good lie down. He also does the right thing and doesn't give away any revelations from the book.

I went along to Continuum 3 on the weekend, as did Helen Razer from "The Age". Her piece is a bit too heavy on the "sci-fi" side of the line (the accepted abbreviation is "sf" - must write something on that some day), but she generally does a good job describing the situation. Neil Gaiman was certainly popular - he had a huge line waiting for his book signing on Saturday afternoon - which led to the convention being one of the biggest general sf cons held in Australia, outside the three Worldcons. I certainly can't remember hearing of a bigger convention that wasn't an Australian National SF Convention.

I was talking to someone about the con organisation over the weekend and said that I was pretty impressed with what I saw. All convention organising should appear like a duck swimming - there can be all sorts of activity under the surface, but on top it has to look calm and serene. Continuum 3 seemed, at least to this observer, as if it was gliding along quite well.

The Hand Revisited

It was ten years ago this month that The Hand That Signed the Paper won the 1995 Miles Franklin Award and instigated one of Australia's major literary controversies. Malcolm Knox, in the "Sydney Morning Herald", revisits the book and reports that the first draft was submitted to the University of Queensland Press as a work of non-fiction. The cloud of mystery around this novel just keeps on deepening over the years.

Brief Notes

J.M. Coetzee has a new story, titled "The Blow", in the latest issue of "The New Yorker". I gather it's only available in the print version.
[Thanks to Conversational Reading for the notice.]

Shirley Hazzard was interviewed on ABC TV's "7:30 Report" last night. I'm impressed that the transcript is available so quickly. She covers such topics as her latest novel, the death of her husband, working for the UN, and Greene on Capri. She has another novel underway. Better start catching up I suppose.

Author Interview Site

Don Swaim, of CBS radio's Book Beat program, seems to have met just about everyone, and he now presents what must be one of the largest collections of audio interviews with writers available anywhere on the web, Not a lot of Australians though: a quick skim through the list reveals only James Clavell, Tom Keneally, and Morris West. Besides that, there's quite a few here that I'll be having a listen to.

[Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the link.]

Melbourne's City Library

Melbourne's City Library is celebrating its first birthday. The Flinders Lane establishment opened a year ago to cater for city residents and workers who are unable to borrow books form the State Library. I don't remember hearing about it previously but that might just be because it opened at about the time the State Library re-opened its re-furbished domed reading room - "the best echo in town".

New Works by Australian Authors

Les Murray has a new poem, "The Blueprint", in the latest issue of "The Paris Review". As well as the poem Murray is interviewed in the same issue. You can read an excerpt from that interview.

"Windows is Shutting Down" is a new poem by Clive James, published at the end of last week in "The Guardian".

[Thanks to Andrew Johnston at The Page for the links.]

Interviews with Australian Speculative Fiction Writers

Over at The Urban Sprawl Project, Ben Peek is interviewing a great swag of Australian speculative fiction writers for the rest of this week. So far he has interviewed Grant Watson, Iain Triffitt, Anna Tambour, Jonathan Strahan, Deborah Biancotti, Geoffrey Maloney, Cat Sparks, Chris Barnes, Sean Williams, Stuart Barrow, Martin Livings, and Trent Jamieson.

Ian Irvine: "The Truth About Publishing"

Australian sf/fantasy writer Ian Irvine has been getting a few mentions over the past week or so due to the article titled "The Truth About Publishing: Second Edition" which he has posted to his website. I first became aware of it via Sarah Weinman, who in turn says she found out about it from Justine Larbalestier, who was told about it by Kim Wilkins. Just another example of the many connections that the literary side of the web has to offer.

Irvine's article is aimed at the first-time or beginning novellist and sets out to explode a number of myths about the publishing industry. The interesting thing about this piece is that it has been written with Australian novellists particularly in mind. It is an excellent piece of work. Not too long, chatty but informative, and convinces you that if you can't put up with all the crap he lists then you really aren't cut out for the writing business. The world doesn't need more writers, just more good ones.

Brunswick, Not Revisited

Les Terry can't bring himself to revisit Brunswick, the Melbourne locale of his early childhood, as he finds that he would "prefer not to cross into that suburb". Terry has recently released a memoir of his time growing up in a poor (as it was then) inner-city suburb, titled The Remarkable Resurrection of Lazaros X, which details the hardships he endured while growing up in the 50s and 60s. He probably wouldn't recognise the place now.

Featured Australian Fiction

"The Age" has been running excerpts from various works of fiction over the past week or so as part of their "Summer Reading" section of the entertainment pages. The excerpts don't all appear to be on the paper's website, but here are some links to the Australian works featured so far:

White Earth by Andrew McGahan
- reviewed by Aviva Tuffield in "The Age"
- reviewed by Sally Murphy in
- reviewed by Patricia Irvine in "The Adelaide Review"
The Gift of Speed by Stephen Carroll
- reviewed by Michael McGirr in "The Age"
- reviewed by Kabita Dhara in Boomerang Books
Angel Puss by Colleen McCullough
- reviewed by Marian McCarthy in "The Age"
- profiled by ABC South West WA

Memories of Susan Sontag

Peter Craven wrote an appreciation and personal memory of Susan Sontag soon after her death at the end of 2004. It was published in the Fairfax papers ("The Age" and "The Sydney Morning Herald") on January 1, 2005 under the title "The Light of Truth" but I've only today noticed it up on the SMH website.

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