Excuse us while we take a moment…

We’re pretty snowed under here at Bookseller+Publisher headquarters, putting the finishing touches on the July issue after getting out this week’s bumper issue of the Weekly Book Newsletter.

Last week, Matthia was sweating it out at Darwin’s Wordstorm writers festival (you can read her post on Wordstorm here) and this week Andrea is soaking up Sydney Writers Festival (and heading to tonight’s Book Design Awards to see what titles are declared Australia’s best-looking: see the contenders here). This is what Andrea’s desk looks like now:

Also, as we reported in the Weekly Book Newsletter, REDgroup Retail, which owns Borders Asia-Pacific (and Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls in New Zealand), launched its Kobo ebook platform yesterday, as well as its Kobo ereader: Continue reading

Bestsellers this week

There was little movement on the Nielsen BookScan bestseller charts, for Our Family Table (Julie Goodwin, Ebury) and House Rules (Jodi Picoult, A&U) stayed at the top. They also took the top places of the fastest movers chart. After The Girl Who Played with Fire (Stieg Larsson, Quercus), came a new fourth–This Body of Death (Elizabeth George, Hachette). The Way We Were (Elizabeth Noble, Michael Joseph) was the highest new entry, then came D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (Antony Beevor, Viking). After the flurry of publicity surrounding Beautiful Malice (Rebecca James, A&U), it has appeared at number five on the fastest movers.

Wordstorm 2010: the festival of Australasian writing

The weather at this year’s Wordstorm writers festival (held 13 to 16 May in Darwin—officially in the ‘dry’ third of the year), was humid enough for even the locals to admit things were ‘warm’. But for those who sweated and fanned their way through sessions in the lush (unairconditioned) Darwin Botantic Gardens, there was the reward of hearing voices that don’t always carry as far south as Victoria and New South Wales—or get as much airtime when they do.

Of course some big-name guests sold out special event sessions at other venues—Wendy Harmer, Tim Flannery and Germaine Greer among them—but the shelves in the Dymocks bookshop tent in the gardens were packed with titles by authors less familiar to my non-Territorian eye, books by writers from Timor, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia—a mix which justifies Wordstorm’s recent rebranding as the ‘festival of Australasian writing’.

Ha’u Maka Lucas/I Am Lucas, which won first prize in the Timorese National Short Novel Writing Competition, for example, was stocked by the bookshop in its original Timorese edition, its author Teodosio Babtista Ximenes hoping to find Australian support for an English translation of his story, which is based on the removal of Timorese children from their families by the Indonesian army in the late 1970s. Nearby was the anthology of Indonesian work in translation, Reasons for Harmony, published by the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

The bookshop shelves were also full with poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays and anthologies by Aboriginal authors from around the country, including Marie Munkara, Yvette Holt, Wesley Enoch, Lionel Fogarty, Lorraine McGee-Sippel, Philip McLaren, Marcia Langton, Melissa Lucashenko and Margaret Kemarre (M K) Turner—several of whom appeared at the Indigenous Writers and Educators conference which ran as part of the festival on 12 and 13 May at Charles Darwin University.

From this overwhelming mix, I came away with Ali Cobby Eckermann’s book of poetry little bit long time (Picaro Press), a collection that’s direct, personal, moving and beautiful; the anthology Fishtails in the Dust: Writing from the Centre (Ptilotus Press), which includes some of the poems from Eckermann’s collection among short stories and other works by a range of Central Australian writers; Terra, a bilingual English/Indonesian anthology of work by writers who have appeared at Wordstorm between 2004 and 2006, edited by festival director Sandra Thibodeaux; and M K Turner’s Iwenhe Tyerrtye: What It Means to Be an Aboriginal Person (IAD Press), which was launched at the festival. Opera soprano Deborah Cheetham read from a section of Turner’s book in a panel on ‘Home, Land, Homeland’, emphasising the importance of words to human identity: ‘Words makes things happen. Words makes us alive… That’s how I got taught these things, how I’ve learned through out my life, how I’ve always seen the world, how I understand it, and how and what in all those ways life has always been.’ Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Someone Else’s Child: A Surrogate’s Story (Sue Phillips, UQP)

This is not your average pregnancy/birth memoir; it is an unusual story of surrogate motherhood, of giving the ultimate gift–a child. Sue Phillips, maried with three children, was approaching the age of 40 when she decided to become a ‘gestational carrier’ for a couple who were unable to have a child because illness had resulted in the woman having a damaged uterus. Technically speaking, the couple contributed the genetic material and Phillips carried the child to term. It sounded so straightforward at the outset but surrogacy presents a complicated web of procedure, interesting legalities and ethics, not to mention a plethora of invasive medical appointments (Phillips is not a fan of needles) and a minefield of personal intricacies and interactions. Phillips also faced a considerable challenge with her Catholic employer. The strength of this book is not so much in the writing as in its content and relevance. Told in a simple format by Phillips, compiled from her diaries, minutiae sometimes detracts from the flow of the story. However, this is only the second book ever published on Australian surrogacy and deals comprehensively and personally with its various aspects. It will appeal to many readers, especially women.

Paula Grunseit is a freelance journalist, editor and reviewer. This review first appeared in the April issue of Bookseller+Publisher.

Most mentioned books this week

After a couple of weeks of media coverage, Susan Maushart’s The Winter of Our Disconnect (Bantam) has reached the most mentioned spot on our chart. Her book tells the story of the exile from the information age she imposed on her family. After the awful shock of a gadget-less life, the result was that the family communicated more when they had fewer gadgets with which to communicate (see our interview with Maushart here). Also appearing on the chart this week were Christopher Hitchens’s Hitch 22 (A&U), Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn (Picador), Walter Mosley’s Known to Evil (W&N) and Yoko Ogawa’s Hotel Iris (Harvill Secker)—Media Extra.

BOOK REVIEW: Manning Clark: A Life (Allen & Unwin)

Manning Clark: A Life by Brian Matthews (Allen & Unwin) was announced as the winner of this year’s $20,000 National Biography Award this morning. Author Brendan Gullifer reviewed the book for us back in the October 2008 issue of Bookseller+Publisher, giving it five stars. Here’s what he had to say at the time:

Ironic, playful, iconoclastic and provocative, historian Manning Clark left an indelible mark on this country, our thinking, how we view ourselves and our past. In this brilliant new biography, Brian Matthews follows up his award-winning work on Henry Lawson’s mother (Louisa) with an unflinching, detailed, poignant and beautifully written portrait of a brilliant mind wracked with uncertainty, sensitive to criticism, crippled by a lack of self esteem and haunted by his faith and alcoholism. In his early years as a young academic, Clark grappled with numerous literary false-starts and doubts. He was fuelled by an overwhelming desire to write coupled with a fear that he might have nothing to say. Ultimately, his six volumes of Australian history were, according to Matthews, ‘the most ambitious, visionary evocation of the annals of his country every attempted’. And, Matthews explains, the ‘fault finders were assiduous and mean’. Clark was a man alive, one of the great teachers of his time, unfettered by the academic cloisters within which he worked, writing history in a way that still inspires and manages to capture our great, sprawling and often contrary national story in prose that is elegant, at times baroque, and—like this biography—never dull.

Brendan Gullifer is a Melbourne writer, his first novel, Sold, was published by Sleepers Publishing in 2009. This review first appeared in the October 2008 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine. You can read the April 2010 issue of the magazine online here.

BOOK REVIEW: Taller When Prone (Les Murray, Black Inc.)

Taller When Prone is Les Murray’s most recent volume of poetry and is his first since the release of The Biplane Houses four years ago. Murray’s felicity with language is exquisitely displayed in this eclectic and versatile collection featuring some 62 poems, many of which have seen publication previously in numerous literary journals and newspapers. Murray—arguably one of Australia’s most recognised and revered poets—is often praised for his masterful depictions of rural life and his ear for the Australian vernacular, and images of the bush and (topically) bushfire figure in several of the poems in this volume. ‘Love the gum forest, camp out in it / but death hosts your living in it, brother.’ (from ‘Hesiod on Bushfire’). There is humour and heart and spirit in this collection, and an intimacy is woven through the varying rhythms that make up the tales, meditations and elegies within its pages. This will be a long-awaited addition to the poetry shelf and a must for Les Murray fans, as he continues to display his finesse as a craftsman, with such delightful imagery: ‘Muscles and torsos of cloud / ascended over the mountains.’ (from ‘Midi’). Language to be savoured.

Deborah Crabtree is a Melbourne-based writer and bookseller. This review first appeared in the April issue of Bookseller+Publisher. You can read the April 2010 issue online here.

BOOK REVIEW: Killing Richard Dawson (Robin Baker, Pantera Press)

Killing Richard Dawson is the debut novel from up-and-comer Robin Baker. It follows 19-year-old sociopath Richard Dawson on the painstaking road to utter self-annihilation. Following his mother’s suicide when Richard is 11, he is all but left to fend for himself. Even lonelier than he was to begin with, he becomes unable to empathise with those around him, yet desperate to connect with somebody, anybody, in order to save himself from what he will become. The way in which Baker approaches the character of Richard is intriguing to say the least. Every observation and opinion expressed by Richard, every nuance of his personality is laced with an almost childlike naivety, which only an extremely competent author would be capable of producing. The leitmotif in this dark, disturbing piece centres around happiness, and how far is too far to go in order to achieve it. Killing Richard Dawson takes the reader on an unsettling journey into the psyche of a man with nothing to lose—but everything to gain. This book might appeal most to 18- to 25-year-olds. That said, it will also have no problem holding captive those who fall outside this demographic. A truly gripping read.

B Owen Baxter works at Emporium Books Australia. He is currently studying writing and linguistics. This review first appeared in the April issue of Bookseller+Publisher. You can read the April 2010 issue online here.

Bestsellers this week

Cookbooks are very popular in the charts this week, as can be seen from Margaret Fulton, who has been publishing cookbooks since 1968. Fulton’s name is so trusted by home cooks that she recently released yet another newly-revised edition of The Margaret Fulton Cookbook (Hardie Grant), which comes in fifth on this week’s fastest movers chart. Gary Mehigan’s Comfort Food (Lantern) is at the top of the fastest movers chart. Our Family Table (Julie Goodwin, Random House) continues to rule the bestseller chart and comes in third on the fastest movers chart. Without much change over the past month House Rules (Jodi Picoult, A&U), Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millennium’ trilogy (Quercus), 9th Judgement (James Patterson, Century) and 61 Hours (Lee Child, Bantam) continue to remain in the top 10 of the bestseller chart. Burned:House of Night (P C Cast & Kristin Cast, Hachette) is a new title for the charts that comes in at sixth place in the bestsellers and number one on the highest new entries chart–Weekly Book Newsletter.

BOOK REVIEW: The Infinity Gate (Sara Douglass, Voyager)

After the cliffhanger ending of 2008’s The Twisted Citadel, Douglass’ fans will race through this action-packed final volume in the ‘Darkglass Mountain’ trilogy. Axis, Maximilian and their allies lie besieged in the magical tower of Elcho Falling with enemies gathering on all sides; the treacherous winged Lealfast from the frozen north, the ravenous, bloodthirsty Skraelings approaching from the south and the powerful evil being, known simply as the One, drawing forth the magic of Infinity through the corrupt power of the Darkglass Pyramid. Revelations, betrayals and desperate stratagems abound amid a series of escalating confrontations. The secret heritage of the Skraelings is revealed in a surprise plot twist, whilst the cursed marsh witch Ravenna may hold the key to the very survival of the world. But can anyone truly trust her? Douglass certainly knows how to spin a thoroughly compelling, emotion-charged tale. Her characters develop and grow with the story, engaging the reader’s sympathy. The sheer narrative momentum of the storyline helps overcome the occasional unwieldy sentence or clunky piece of writing. This is a dark, powerful novel that will appeal to devotees of the character-driven fantasies of such authors as Robin Hobb and Robert Jordan.

James Francis is a bookseller at Reader’s Feast, Melbourne. This review first appeared in the April 2010 issue of Bookseller+Publisher.