Fancy Goods questionnaire: Brad Jefferies

bradphotoBrad Jefferies is the new publishing assistant at Books+Publishing. We asked him to share his reading fancies.

What are you reading right now?

Late last night I finished Wayne Macauley’s collection Other Stories (Black Pepper). Very funny and absurd (mostly) little stories. I’ve forgotten the name of it, but the story where the politician commandeers a tractor on a rampage through the city was my favourite.

What book do you always recommend?

Ever since Craig Silvey replied to one of my friend’s fan-emails following up on the Batman vs Superman debate, I’ve been pretty insistent about Jasper Jones (A&U)—mostly because Silvey seems like a really nice person.

What book are you most looking forward to?

I’d really like Julia Gillard to rip into Kevin Rudd in the book she’s writing. If she is (again) too gracious to do so, then I’m looking forward to reading Christos Tsiolkas’ Barracuda (A&U).

What book made you wonder what all the fuss was about?

Am I allowed to say The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion, Text)?

What’s the best book you’ve read that no-one’s ever heard of?

Way to Go! Sadness, Euphoria and the Fremantle Dockers by Matt Price (Fremantle Press). Price knew that being able to laugh at yourself is a key skill for us Dockers supporters.

Obligatory desert island question—which book would you want with you?

Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway). As well as being a great book, I think it would humble me and stymie any thoughts I had about trying to swim my way to safety.

Is there a book you’ve bought for the cover?

Not recently, although if a book is part of a series I feel obligated to buy and read the whole set so it looks nice on the shelf.

Hardback, paperback or digital?

Paperback. I do have an ereader, but I only use it when I’m desperate for something to read and I haven’t got a print book handy. As for hardback, those slips they put over the cover really annoy me. Am I supposed to read with them on, or put them aside? If I put them aside I never see them again, and if I leave them on they crease and tear in my bag. Paperback is much simpler.

If I were a literary character I’d be…

I planted out my herbs and chilli plants yesterday, and it was hard not to imagine myself as a tiny, apartment-bound modern day Thoreau (even though he’s not technically a character) tending to my Walden (which is actually a balcony).

The best thing about books is…

They help me to understand all the strange things and strange people in the world.

The November issue!

Well, the stylish November issue is in the house. As well as the usual reviews and news, it’s got interviews with author and bookseller A S Patric, whose short story collection The Rattler is published by Spineless Wonders in November, Brian Falkner who has a new YA series kicking off in November with Recon Team Angel: Assault (Walker Books), Frank Moorhouse, whose ‘Edith Trilogy’ wraps up with Cold Light (Random House, November) and, of course, Ray Martin, whose new book Ray Martin’s Favourites (Victory, November) contains the stories behind some of his favourite interviews.

In the same issue, Eloise Keating looks at changes to sales repping and Andrea Hanke investigates the finer details of digital rights. We report on the Melbourne and Brisbane writers’ festivals, Reuben Crossman reflects on the international book design awards and Kate Cuthbert interviews two digital advocates working in romance publishing.

The October issue!: Reviewers’ top picks

Did we mention the October issue of the magazine hit our desks a couple of weeks ago? Here are the reviewers’ top picks from the reviews this time around:

Foal’s Bread (Gillian Mears, A&U, November)

‘ Mears is up there with Tim Winton and Kate Grenville,’ writes Fairfield Book’s Heather Dyer in her review of Foal’s Bread, Mear’s first novel in 16 years. The novel tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family, set in the horse-jumping circuit in rural NSW prior to WWII. ‘The relationships between the characters in Foal’s Bread are rich and varied, and Mears rarely takes the obvious route as she explores emotions of love, jealousy, frustration and disappointment … Foal’s Bread is a book to be read slowly and savoured.’

Forecast: Turbulence (Janette Turner Hospital, Fourth Estate, November)

‘Janette Turner Hospital’s anthology of stories gathers together a striking array of disturbed and disturbing characters—the forthright daughter of a cult leader, a young woman facing her father for the first time in years, the devastated parents of an abducted youth, and two young girls who bond though self-harm,’ writers reviewer Portia Lindsay. ‘Turner Hospital’s writing is both sharp and intimate. She doesn’t shy away from brutality, and in this—and the theme of individuals struggling among forces much larger than themselves—it contains similarities to Due Preparations for the Plague.’

Silence (Rodney Hall, Pier 9, November)

Silence should be approached with senses attuned to the sounds, images and emotions that are evoked so vividly by this master storyteller,’ writes reviewer Toni Whitmont of Rodney Hall’s short story collection. ‘The stories cover several continents and ages. They are told from the points of view of rulers and minions, victors and vanquished, and even, occasionally, animals (well, a dreaming bird) … I came to this book unprepared, and I was completely overwhelmed by the tapestry of its imagery and the echoes of its stillness.’

HipsterMattic: One Man’s Quest to become the Ultimate Hipster (Matt Granfield, A&U, November)

Dumped by his hipster girlfriend, Matt Granfield ‘decided to turn himself into The Ultimate Hipster … embarking on a series of sure-fire markers of Ultimate Hipness: getting a tattoo, starting a band, acquiring a fixed-gear bicycle, learning how to knit, selling organic cupcakes and scrabble jewellery at a market in a laneway, and so on,’ writes reviewer Hannah Francis. ‘While this sounds like a potentially annoying premise, Granfield writes with a light-hearted humour that is refreshing and at times laugh-out-loud funny.’

Tony Robinson’s History of Australia (Tony Robinson, Viking, November)

This book ‘is a companion book to the TV series Tony Robertson Explores Australia, which aired on the History Channel earlier this year,’ writes reviewer Jessica Broadbent. ‘As always, Robinson pokes just the right amount of fun. He unearths some interesting events from the history books, including some that may come as a surprise to many locals. For example, who knew there was a Founding Orgy? … He also covers more recent events such as the apology to the Stolen Generations, and takes a stroll with the award-winning author Anh Do.’

For more information on forthcoming books, sign up for the free Bookseller+Publisher Newsletter, published fortnightly.

The August issue is here!

Did we forget to mention that the August issue of Bookseller+Publisher is in our hot little hands?

Much goodness in this issue (starting with the macaron delights on the cover, courtesy of Adriano Zumbo’s forthcoming cookbook, which is due from Murdoch Books in October). We’ve got: 25 reviews, including Gleebooks co-owner David Gaunt on Anna Funder’s debut novel All That I Am (Hamish Hamilton, September), Readings Books owner Mark Rubbo reporting from Book Expo America, Pip Newling taking a look at how local booksellers are selling online, Andrew Wrathall rounding up this year’s Father’s Day titles, Max Barry in praise of ebooks, plus we celebrate 90 years of Bookseller+Publisher.

That’s not to mention the usual news, profiles and author interviews with Funder, Diane Armstrong and Margaret Wild.

You can also check out the July issue of the magazine online here.

Happy Birthday to us! Bookseller+Publisher is 90 years old today!

The original Australian Stationery and Fancy Goods Journal

Happy Birthday to us! We’re 90 years old (though we’re told we wear it well).

Bookseller+Publisher magazine started life on 10 June 1921 as the Australian Stationery and Fancy Goods Journal—a name we like so much we named this blog after it. Much of what we know of this magazine’s early history comes from the memoir A Life of Books: The Story of DW Thorpe Pty Ltd by founder D W Thorpe and his daughter Joyce Thorpe Nicholson, who took over the family business. There are also the magazine’s archives: shelves of wonderfully fragrant issues chronicling the history of bookselling and publishing in Australia.

Bookseller+Publisher was launched in difficult times—the first editorial opened with the line: ‘Everywhere we hear of falling prices.’ Of course, D W Thorpe wasn’t referring to the price of books from online overseas retailers but to the post-war slump in commodity prices. ‘It was hardly an encouraging climate to start a trade journal,’ writes Thorpe in the memoir. ‘In fact no time was favourable until after the Second World War.’

But he persevered. In the second issue Thorpe called for the establishment of a trade organisation to bring together retail, wholesale and manufacturing sectors of the industry—as well as offering a more light-hearted piece on gum-nut novelty items, or ‘specimens of woodology’ as the article referred to them, and an ad for James Spicer & Sons toilet rolls. For better or worse, the journal had a distinctly ‘Australian’ feel.

The original delightful name was changed in the 1930s to Ideas for Stationers, Sporting Goods, Newsagents, Art & Gift Shops, Booksellers and Libraries. Not surprisingly, that was shortened before long to Ideas and in the 1970s the magazine became Australian Bookseller & Publisher.

In the early years of this decade we became Bookseller+Publisher, but if we had that old 1930s reckless disregard for brevity we might just as well be Bookseller, Publisher, Author, Editor, Librarian, Newsagent, Distributor, Designer, Printer, Agent, Student+Reader. We’re for booklovers everywhere, and we thank you all for being our friends.

(PS You can check out some highlights from the current issue here. And sign up for our free fortnightly Bookseller+Publisher Newsletter here.)

Bookseller+Publisher magazine: July issue top picks

The July issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine has landed! Here are some of the forthcoming releases that impressed our reviewers this issue:

Spirit of Progress (Steven Carroll, Fourth Estate, August)
Clive Tilsley of Fullers Bookshop in Tasmania reviewed Steven Carroll’s Spirit of  Progress, a ‘prequel’ to The Art of the Engine Driver, the first of Carroll’s ‘Glenroy’ trilogy. ‘Reading Spirit of Progress was one of the most enjoyable things I have done for a long time,’ writes Tilsley. ‘While it begins and ends in 1977, most of the story is set in the immediate post-war years in Melbourne as the country starts life afresh… I am sure everyone who has read the ‘Glenroy’ series will welcome this addition.’

Babylon (Stephen Sewell, Victory, August)
Rachel Edwards, events manager at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart, declares Babylon ‘a taut and unpredictable crime novel from Stephen Sewell, who is best known as a playwright and scriptwriter and who recently adapted the film Animal Kingdom into book form’. Charismatic psychopath Dan is driving a stolen black Chevrolet when he picks up Mick, a young English backpacker. ‘Dan’s flair and immediate power over the vulnerable Mick are slowly teased out in an extended cop-chase/road-trip through a dark and mythic east-coast Australia,’ writes Edwards. ‘This is a tightly written literary crime novel.’

Cargo (Jessica Au, Picador, August)
journalist Eloise Keating says former Meanjin deputy editor Jessica Au’s debut novel Cargo is ‘a stunning and compelling read’. The novel weaves together the stories of three teenagers finding their way in the early 1990s in Currawong, a small Australian coastal town in which the lives of residents are invariably influenced by the water that surrounds them,’ writes Keating. ‘Au captures the rawness of her protagonists’ emotions with compassion and skill, as well as refreshing honesty… the complexity and uncertainty of growing up is celebrated in this unique snapshot of adolescence which will be appreciated by readers of all ages.’

The Courier’s New Bicycle (Kim Westwood, HarperVoyager, August)
Perth-based bookseller Stefen Brazulaitis said that while Westwood’s novel ‘will definitely appeal to science-fiction readers’, he’d recommend it to adventurous literary fiction fans too. ‘Salisbury “Sal” Forth is a bicycle courier in a future Melbourne, running contraband through the back streets of a society in turmoil. Mass vaccinations against the latest super flu have tipped the body chemistry of most of the population into endocrine crisis and infertility. With the government dominated by anti-technology Christian fundamentalists, the illegal hormone packages that Sal delivers are the only hope some have…’

RPM (Noel Mengel, UQP, August)
Reviewer Jarrah Moore was impressed by Noel Mengel’s novel, set in 1984 in a small silo town in Queensland, about ‘a mismatched group of dreamers and cultural outcasts’. ‘What connects the characters is their shared obsession with music, and the same thing holds the book together,’ she writes. ‘This is a book with heart, delicate characterisation and a striking sense of place: the small-town world with its wide open spaces and narrow minds, and the vibrant music aficionados scene that springs up around the record store RPM come together in a way that is both idealised and deeply honest.’

Melbourne (Sophie Cunningham, NewSouth Books, August)
In nonfiction, bookseller Veronica Sullivan enjoyed the fourth in NewSouth Books’ series of popular histories of Australian capital cities: Sophie Cunningham’s Melbourne. ‘As a former editor of Melbourne-based literary journal Meanjin, Cunningham is uniquely qualified to dissect the city. She offers an intimate, nuanced perspective of Melbourne past, present and future. This is the Melbourne of Graham Kennedy, Helen Garner and Mick Gatto, but also of generations of artists, cyclists, Collingwood fans and the covert urban explorers known as the Cave Clan,’ writes Sullivan. ‘This book is lively and accessible, with a voice that is informative but not didactic, making it ideal both as an insiders’ guide for locals and an introduction for curious outsiders.’

A Small Book about Drugs (Lisa Pryor, A&U, August)
Portia Lindsay says A Small Book About Drugs by former Sydney Morning Herald columnist Lisa Pryor is ‘a persuasively written and thought-provoking essay that warrants serious consideration by young people, parents, politicians, law enforcement and the media’. It ‘offers a controversial perspective on recreational drug use, as discusses many aspects of the practice that are often taboo in mainstream debate,’ writes Lindsay.

Violin Lessons (Arnold Zable, Text, August)
Lindsay also reviews Arnold Zable’s Violin Lessons in which ‘music in its many forms provides comfort, escape or nostalgia for a variety of trapped or displaced individuals—the Iraqi refugee reunited with his band, the Polish labourer enchanted by his music box, the Cambodian fisherman who serenades the river’. ‘This book is a wonderfully complex, sad and beautiful read,’ writes Lindsay.

Sign up for our free fortnightly Bookseller+Publisher newsletter for more information on forthcoming titles here.

Bookseller+Publisher magazine June issue: top picks

The June issue has landed! This time around several titles impressed our reviewers. Here are just a few:

Berlin Syndrome (Melanie Joosten, Scribe, July)

Reviewer Eloise Keating describes Melanie Joosten’s Berlin Syndrome as a ‘courageous and exciting debut’ from ‘an extremely talented new writer’. She recommends the Melbourne writer’s novel to readers of literary fiction, who will appreciate the story of the ‘complex and dangerous relationship’ between a backpacking Australian photographer Clare and Berlin school teacher Andi. ‘Joosten is masterful in her descriptions of the loneliness that can be found both in a foreign city full of strangers and in an apartment shared by two people,’ she writes.

There Should Be More Dancing (Rosalie Ham, Vintage, July)

Fans of Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker ‘won’t be disappointed’ by her new novel, says reviewer Heather Dyer.  The story unfolds at Margery’s 80th birthday party, where she is ‘planning to fling herself from a balcony’. However, ‘there are a lot of people in the atrium below and she doesn’t want to spoil their day’ so she bides her time in her hotel room and ‘looks back on her life, convinced of conspiracies that have kept her in the dark for years, and full of grievances’. ‘A cast of memorable characters and Ham’s sly humour make this an entertaining read,’ says Dyer.

Lost in Transit: The Strange Story of the Philip K Dick Android (David F Duffy, MUP, July)

In Lost in Transit, author David F Duffy blends the story of a ‘stranger-than-fiction Philip K Dick android’ that was ‘built by a team of young scientists at Memphis University’s Institute of Intelligent Systems’ with a discussion of ‘artificial intelligence, robotics and Dick himself’, writes reviewer Lachlan Jobbins. The android, based on the famous sci-fi author, ‘briefly captured the world’s attention … before going missing on a flight between Dallas and Las Vegas, never to be seen again.’ Jobbins concludes: ‘It’s the best kind of popular science—a book that doesn’t require any previous knowledge, but leaves you hungry to know more, and wondering at the possibilities that may lie ahead.’

Infernal Triangle (Paul McGeough, A&U, July)

Foreign correspondent Paul McGeough’s Infernal Triangle is ‘essential reading’ according to reviewer Paula Grunseit. ‘It covers his observations of significant events in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Levant over a decade’, she writes, and despite his ‘access to numerous key figures, from political leaders to dissidents and Islamic Jihad fighters … the “ordinary” person is not forgotten either’. McGeough’s collection of reports ‘should be of interest to anyone who follows international news and current affairs’, says Grunseit.

Sign up for the free fortnightly Bookseller+Publisher Newsletter here for more advance book news.

A dose of 1920s glamour …

The May issue of Bookseller+Publisher is hot off the press, with a lovely cover to celebrate the July publication of Sulari Gentill’s second Rowland Sinclair mystery A Decline in Prophets (Pantera Press), which reviewer Pip Newling describes as ‘historical crime with a healthy dose of 1920s glamour, wit and social history’. It’s very on trend, we think, with the buzz around prohibition-era TV drama Boardwalk Empire.

But what else do our reviewers recommend?

The Life (Malcolm Knox, A&U, June)
Reviewer Jo Case found Malcolm Knox’s latest novel a ‘deeply rewarding and utterly absorbing’ puzzle of a book. It’s the story of washed-up former surfing champ Dennis Keith, who is being interviewed by a journalist he nicknames ‘The BFO’ or ‘my Bi-Fricken-Ographer’. Case admires the ‘spiky, roughly hewn prose, rich with surf slang and wordplay, often breaking into sets of sentences that read like a kind of poetry’, as well as Knox’s expert ability to inhabit this ‘idiosyncratic, deeply sensitive, equally aggressive’ character.

Love, Honour and O’Brien (Jennifer Rowe, A&U, June)
‘When Holly Love decides to hunt down Andrew McNish, the fiancé who disappeared under mysterious circumstances and took all of her savings with him, she doesn’t realise that it’s the first step on a madcap ride that will lead her to an eccentric little town in the Blue Mountains, or that she will end up accidentally posing as a private investigator while sharing living space with a psychic, a sweet-natured elderly phone sex worker and a parrot,’ writes reviewer Jarrah Moore, who found Jennifer Rowe’s ‘cast-of-quirky-characters mystery’ ‘endearing and highly enjoyable’.

The Vanishing Act (Mette Jakobsen, Text, July)
The debut novel from Danish-born, Australia-based author Mette Jakobsen won five stars from reviewer Felicity McLean, who describes it as a ‘quixotic story’ that ‘explores the delicate dance between logic and imagination through the minutia of island life’. ‘The Vanishing Act introduces readers to a wonderland of characters so quirky it seems inconceivable they share the same 240 pages,’ she writes. ‘This is a stunning new voice for fans of literary fiction, and reads like a thoroughly modern Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.’

Whispering Death (Garry Disher, Text, August)
Fans of Garry Disher’s ‘Challis and Destry’ series will not be disappointed with his latest offering, writes reviewer Kimberley Allsopp. ‘All the elements that make up a great crime novel are here: an underfunded police unit, strong male and female characters, a distinct setting and the contrasting views of characters within the law and those that operate outside it.’ The story is set in the small town of Waterloo in Victoria, and Allsopp believes ‘the book’s prominent local setting should appeal to readers of Peter Temple’s “Jack Irish” novels’.

Reviewers’ top picks

The April issue of Bookseller+Publisher is in the house, with a cover that just makes you want to curl up in bed with a good book.

This issue features reviews of books publishing in May and June. Here are some of the titles that caught our reviewers’ fancies.

The Amateur Science of Love (Craig Sherborne, Text, June)
The first novel from Craig Sherborne, ‘poet and author of memoirs Hoi Polloi and its sequel, Muck’, has won high praise from reviewer Katie Horner. ‘I can’t fault this book,’ she writes. The story follows ‘the see-saw relationship of naive but cocksure Colin and eccentric artist, Tilda’ as they ‘deal with isolation, illness, infidelity and their everchanging feelings’. Horner writes: ‘In my opinion, books with ‘love’ in the title don’t tend to reflect real relationships, or none I’ve had knowledge of, but this one does.’

Past the Shallows (Favel Parrett, Hachette, May)
‘The wild coast of Tasmania provides a moody backdrop’ for Favel Parrett’s debut novel about ‘two young boys [who] live in a tumbledown shack with their worn-down and bitter father’, writers reviewer Heather Dyer. ‘One day when their father insists both boys go out on the boat in rough weather, a tragedy seems inevitable’. Dyer is impressed by Parrett’s restrained prose. ‘This debut novel doesn’t have a single excess word and the characters are thoroughly believable,’ she writes.

Watercolours (Adrienne Ferreira, Fourth Estate, May)
Another debut novel has impressed our reviewer, Rebecca Butterworth. Watercolours begins with the arrival of a new primary school teacher Dom in ‘the rural backwater of Morus’. When Dom ‘notices that one of his pupils, Novi Lepido, is a talented artist’, his ‘efforts to foster the boy’s talent uncover the Lepido family’s links to the local history and the landscape, stirring up hidden wells of grief and ancient history’. This is ‘an excitingly good book,’ writes Butterworth. ‘It is a refreshingly good Australian story that will appeal to readers who enjoy reading about love and the triumph of good intentions.’

The Taste of River Water (Cate Kennedy, Scribe, May)
‘[Cate] Kennedy’s career as a poet has evolved in parallel with her success as a short-story writer and novelist and her accessible poems display the hallmarks of a poet increasingly well-practised in her craft,’ writes reviewer Andrew Wilkins of Kennedy’s latest collection. ‘Kennedy seems adept an extracting striking conclusions from the least epic of events—a joyflight experienced by long-dead family members, for instance, or a couple laying a new floor in their house … There is much to admire here.’

If you want to know more about forthcoming titles, sign up for our fortnightly Bookseller+Publisher Newsletter here.

Gender balance in publishing and reviewing: how does Australia stack up?

This breakdown by VIDA Women in Literary Arts of how many women writers are reviewed in US publications versus how many men are reviewed has prompted some self-analysis by those who undertake reviews both in Australia and overseas.

In light of this we thought we’d take a look at our own reviews and see how women authors fared. The results—reviews of books by women ever so slightly outweighed reviews of books by men—is perhaps not all that surprising. Bookseller+Publisher attempts to review as many new Australian books as possible each month—that is, as many as we can find willing reviewers for in our fairly short window of opportunity. A quick eye-balling of our adult reviews for 2010 indicates that of these reviews just under half (48%) are of books by men, while 52% are of books by women. When children’s books are added to the mix the percentage by women is even higher (57%), compared to 42% by men. (We should note, too, that although we do review some genre titles we by no means capture the output of romance or spec-fiction genres—we’re mostly dealing with mainstream trade publications in both fiction and nonfiction.)

We may well have our own biases here in the office and each of our reviewers who say yes or no to a title may be operating from their own also, but given that our purpose is to cast a wide net, the percentages quoted above would seem to suggest that the gender split in terms of what actually gets published in Australia is fairly even, possibly even skewed towards women.

Hopefully this can provide something of a basis against which to compare the gender split in the reviews sections of Australia’s mainstream literary publications—the argument that there are more reviews of books by men because there are more books by men out there would seem, by our reckoning, to be a hollow one.