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.

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.

INTERVIEW: Brendan Cowell on ‘How it Feels’ (Picador)

‘Sex, drugs, art, suicide, love, death and, possibly, murder are the themes of this exceptional debut novel,’ writes Paul Landymore in his five-star review of Brendan Cowell’s debut novel. He spoke to the author.

Suicide plays a large part in the story. Is this a big issue for Cronulla, particularly among its young men?

I believe so, yes. Well it was when I was growing up. A couple of boys in my year, a few in the year above and below, all took their own lives. It’s such a beautiful place Cronulla, quite stunning actually, and with a strong sense of family and community, so it hurts and fascinates me as to why these young men cannot see enough light in their lives to go on.

Your protagonist, Neil, is initially very hesitant sexually, but undergoes a rapid expansion of his awareness once at uni. Is this simply a result of his being away from home or is it a process of ‘art culture’?

The first part of the book takes place on the night the students get their HSC results. There is a party, and the characters are forced to confront the fact that this part of their life is over, and that it will never be the same again between them. Neil, our protagonist, is under pressure from his girlfriend to have sex, to lose their virginity together on this night, but her life is so full of pain, and her need to do this act so loaded, that he cannot go through with it. He is also a shy, introverted fellow, whose creativity has not been allowed to blossom in the Shire. Once at university his talent thrives and with it, his ego, and with that, his penchant for experimental sex. It’s all part of the same thing, for Neil, the art and the sex and the drugs, it’s all part of his obsession with the idea of ‘Me’, which makes up most of part two until tragedy explodes it all.

The idea of sexual freedom within artistic communities has been a constant throughout history. Do you think the pursuit of art feeds this freedom? Are people with more relaxed sexual boundaries more likely to be artistic? Or is it less direct than that?

Look, I am sure there are some accountants having orgies and mad sessions somewhere. I’m not sure it’s only the work of the artistic. Though, I must say, when one studies theatre and/or performance, your guard comes down pretty quickly. A lot of the study involves being vulnerable, and sharing your truth with other people. It also involves a lot of touching and physical involvement, so sex and so forth does not seem like so much of a stretch from what is already taking place. Though, I must say, this was not necessarily my experience at university, though I’m sure it was going on.

Given your background, questions of autobiography are likely to be raised around your novel. To what extent did you use your own life or knowledge of others you knew, studied and worked with?

As my agent Jean Mostyn said so eloquently, writing is a pot pourri of truth, observation, and invention. I would go along with this. How It Feels is very similar to my life trajectory, in terms of geography, but it is not my life. I did not run a theatre company in London for seven years, nor did I have a Sri Lankan girlfriend, or fall out of a window after a foursome in Dalston. Though I did play skirmish once. A lot of this book comes from things I saw and felt from being young, and leaving the Shire and becoming an artist, and then coming back, but it is a whole lot more interesting than how it happened for me.

Having acted, written and directed, what drew you to writing a novel and were you conscious of the potential for people to treat you akin to a soap actor trying to be a pop star?

Firstly, I am not so sure being a pop star is a reasonable equivalent to being a novelist. Well, I’m not sure Dickens would appreciate the connection to Britney. I wrote How It Feels for a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted to write a book. I have always dreamt and aspired to this. Books have played a large part in enriching my life and I wanted to add to the greater pool of this. I also wanted to get back to the very stuff of writing, and to do so on my own. Writing television, film, and theatre for that matter, well there are a lot of voices on board, a lot of factors you have to consider. Writing a novel allowed me to use language, and offer my mind absolute freedom. I also wanted to write about being young before I forgot how it felt. And also, well, I guess it’s a love letter to a lost friend as well. If they can read in heaven, well, I wrote it for him.

This interview first appeared in the November issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine. Read Paul Landymore’s review of How it Feels here.

Reviewers’ top picks from the current issue

In the November issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine Avid Reader’s Paul Landymore was mightily impressed with Brendan Cowell’s How It Feels (Picador, November), a debut novel that opens in Cronulla in the early ’90s and follows central character Neil as he decides to study theatre in Bathurst. ‘Given that Cowell is a well-known actor (who also grew up in Cronulla and studied theatre in Bathurst), it would be natural to look for the autobiography in this story, but the characters are strong enough to tell their own stories,’ writes Landymore. ‘The characters are well defined and the connections between them true, difficult and sometimes inexplicable—so like life itself.’

Also in fiction, Kimberley Allsopp predicts Kate Morton’s fans will not be disappointed by The Distant Hours (A&U, November)—’an engrossing tale full of secrets waiting to be told’. Likewise, those who enjoyed Death Most Definite, the first in Trent Jamieson’s ‘Deathworks’ series will enjoy his follow-up Managing Death (Orbit, December), with Coaldrakes’ Chris McDonough writing that it ‘really picks up the pace’ from its predecessor.

In nonfiction, Max Oliver admires Street Fight in Naples (A&U, October), Peter Robb’s history of a ‘great and terrible city’ with a focus on the 16th and 17th centuries. ‘Don’t expect an easy read: do expect to be informed, entertained and transported to a particularly resilient people and place,’ says Oliver.

Landymore also reviewed Chris Bray’s The 1000 Hour Day for us (Pier 9, November). One-time ‘Young Adventurer of the Year’ Bray and a friend embarked on a 1000km walk across Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic—’a feat the locals cheerfully tell them on arrival will result in their deaths,’ Landymore explains. ‘If you like tales of derring-do in the company of charming, enthusiastic companions, then this book is for you,’ he writes. Continue reading

The Indigenous Literacy Project: Kimberley visit

Matthia Dempsey was invited to accompany several members of the publishing industry on a recent visit to some of the schools involved in the book industry’s Indigenous Literacy Project. She shares some of her trip diary here.

Day one
Like many visitors to the Kimberley region, our journey begins with the flight into Broome, coming in over blue water and a line of white sand rimming the land. Dozens of small sightseeing planes lined up on the tarmac are the first indication of the scale of tourism in the area, and the hot one-room airport, fans turning, is full with visitors from overseas or, like us, from distant parts of the country.

The first familiar face I see is Robyn Huppert’s. As communications officer at the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA), Huppert is responsible for processing orders for books and other materials from communities involved in the book industry’s Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP)—the reason we are both here. (Later, in the four wheel drive, hours out into the Kimberley, Huppert will point out the many place names now familiar to her from these orders. At last count, the ILP supplied material to over 200 remote communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia.)

From left: Suzy Wilson, Malcolm Edwards, Debra Dank, Michael Moynahan, Robyn Huppert, Libby O'Donnell, Karen Williams, Maddie Bower, David Gaunt, Andy Griffiths and Juliet Rogers.

We are soon joined by Fred Hollows staff Maddie Bower (ILP coordinator), and Debra Dank (ILP development facilitator), ILP project officer Karen Williams; ILP founder, and Riverbend Bookstore owner, Suzy Wilson; ILP chair, and co-owner of Gleebooks, David Gaunt; Murdoch Books managing director Juliet Rogers; Hachette Australia CEO Malcolm Edwards; HarperCollins CEO Michael Moynahan; the Australian Publishers Association’s Libby O’Donnell and author Andy Griffiths.

This collection of publishers, booksellers, authors and ILP staff gets along well, which is fortunate, because for the next four days we’ll be seeing a lot of each other: part of the ILP’s annual ‘field trip’, we’re all lucky enough to have been invited to visit some of the students and schools receiving materials and support—to observe first-hand some of the factors that can come into play in remote schools.

One of the first factors to confront us, after a quick lunch, is sheer distance. We’re on the highway, bound for Fitzroy Crossing. It’s a mere four-hour drive away, incredibly short by local standards, but nonetheless a very real reminder of just what ‘remote’ can mean.  (And really, this drive is nothing; even tomorrow’s six hours to Wynham is easy, compared to the distances it takes to reach some communities supported by the ILP. To get to Warburton, for example, you drive to Uluru ‘and then keep heading west along a corrugated dirt road for eight hours’, according to Dank, who has done just that as part of her ILP job.)

Along the way we see maybe two roadhouses, the rest is rocky red and green, with big-bellied boabs gradually showing themselves amid the other trees and the occasional road train rocking past on its way back to Broome. We’re trying to beat the sun but darkness has fallen by the time we approach Fitzroy River and so it’s easy to spot the bright bands of fire—perhaps deliberate and controlled but just as likely not—showing through the trees. The Kimberley region is prone to fires, with vast tracts burned each year.

A group meal enjoyed at the Fitzroy River Lodge and it’s an early night tonight—darker and quieter than many of us have experienced for some time.

Day two
When Andy Griffiths doesn’t appear at breakfast the next morning, those of us familiar with his jogging regime assure others he’s probably off on a morning run. But David Gaunt is missing too and it’s not long before it’s established that both need to be taken to hospital (don’t’ worry, they survived).

Conveniently, though perhaps not unexpectedly, in a town of around 1500 people, the hospital is next door to the community centre where the group is due to meet a class of students who have come in for a day trip from Yakanarra, around 140 kilometres away. Less convenient is the fact that those of us in good health are somewhat under-qualified as star authors.

Under the guidance of former school teacher Suzy Wilson, we manage to facilitate the book-making workshop without Griffiths and, with a ratio of one adult to each child, aren’t too overwhelmed by the experience. We are no Andy Griffiths, but are assured by the teachers and students that we’ve done okay.

The subject matter of the students’ books points to the experiences they share with their city counterparts, as well as to their own unique local experiences—and to some impressively strong imaginations. Stories to come out of the session range from spotting sawfish, to tales of being chased by a (very impressive-looking) sabre tooth tiger, to the anticipated glories to come at an approaching sports festival.

As the students talk among themselves in local languages, we are reminded of how much more impressive their English written and reading skills are for being achieved in a language that may be the students’ second, third or even fourth. And, as Dank explains, English is not only a second(-plus) language, but is also one that, based as it is on binary oppositions, does not often take into account ways of seeing the world that are inherent in ‘matricies’-based Indigenous languages.

These observations give us much to ponder on the six-hour afternoon drive to Kununurra, some thirty-odd kilometres from the NT border.

Day three
In the rosy self-image many Australians have of ourselves, the idea of equality—fostered in direct opposition to the class systems of other countries—is an understandably cherished characteristic. One result of this can be a kind of wilful indifference to difference in others—an (on the surface) admirable ‘I treat everyone the same’ attitude.

The problem, of course, is that within Australia exist a whole range of cultures that at different times and in different places require a moderation in behaviour. The protocol documents we visitors are given with advice on dress and behaviour in remote Aboriginal communities point to this consideration. Most people, as Dank points out during one conversation, would go into a foreign culture overseas listening and watching for different behavioural expectations; yet Australians coming from outside an Aboriginal community will often not approach this in the same respectful way.

Andy Griffiths in action at St Joseph's Catholic School, Wyndham WA.

These are the thoughts that are with me as the group visits two schools in Wyndham, a community of around 800 people located 100 kilometres west of Kununurra. At St Joseph’s Catholic School (K-7), we get to witness, up-close-and-personal, just what a superstar Griffiths is. Not long into his workshop with the students and kids and adults alike are laughing uproariously. At Wyndham District High School (K-12), he is greeted by a ‘Welcome Andy Griffiths’ montage and we are again privileged to watch him at work.

I am aware, through these visits, of the delicate balancing between differing cultures that is required of Aboriginal students and—if they are to be successful—of their often non-Indigenous teachers.

‘The cross over between black and white culture and community, which Indigenous Australians are continuously expected to [adjust to] means that adaptation is a very real skill for Indigenous Australians,’ Dank tells me later. ‘Our kids may have some trouble reading books but they are experts at reading their environment, they may not speak SAE [Standard Australian English] but they articulate their needs brilliantly within our own languages.’

ILP development facilitator Debra Dank.

Dank acknowledges that the ILP has a role to play in ensuring these skills are recognized in the wider community. ‘Let’s build acknowledgement and respect for Indigenous kids as capable learners,’ she says. ‘Let’s build that through a new dialogue which recognises differences as differences and not as deficiencies.’

As we all prepare to say goodbye to the region and each other, Indigenous Literacy Day 2010 (September 1) is fast approaching—the major fundraising day that provides resources to these remote schools. ‘When we consider where these schools are situated; so much money is eaten up in the general running of the school,’ says Dank. ‘ILP can and is suppling some of the special things that make schools a nicer place for teachers and students—beautiful books that celebrate Indigenous faces and culture and activities which are not always available, for any number of reasons.’

It is also providing funding for community-identified projects (CIPs) including support for the Junjuwa Women’s Centre in Fitzroy Crossing, the GurrindinDalmi Community in Katherine; a Maningrida book project with author Leonie Norrington, support for the Central Australian Honey Ant Readers and the Barkly Tablelands Ringers Project.

‘Several of this year’s CIP’s do not have an obvious literacy look but they are creating an environment where SAE literacy and language acquisition can grow,’ explains Dank. ‘Contexts which articulate purpose and need for SAE literacy acquisition.’

You can read more about the ILP’s approach in this post. See www.indigenousliteracyproject.org.au.

BOOK REVIEW: How to Make Gravy (Paul Kelly, Hamish Hamilton)

Paul Kelly’s story begins with the Spiegeltent in Melbourne in 2004 when he was offered an exclusive show: four nights of never-to-be repeated performances. Around that was born the idea of singing 100 of his songs in alphabetical order, each night consisting of a completely different set-list. Around the songs, storytelling was added for theatrical effect, and as the shows hit the road they were recorded with a view to a CD release and then a book. How to Make Gravy is the ‘mongrel beast’ that emerged, and what a beast it is. Part memoir, part tour diary, part song-writing manual, this sprawling book is filled with all manner of letters, lists, confessions, hymns and yarns. Kelly’s 100-plus songs begin each chapter (alphabetically) followed by a story that loosely or closely relates to the song. That Kelly is a consummate storyteller is evident in his song-writing. Here he has space to explore his storytelling skills further, which he does admirably, weaving in and out of the past and present easily and with an intimacy that invites the reader into his world. This book is full of tales that will delight Paul Kelly fans, and will appeal to anyone with an interest in popular music. How to Make Gravy is also available with an exclusive 8-CD box set entitled The A-Z Recordings and a 64-page booklet of photos for $125.

Deborah Crabtree is a Melbourne-based writer and bookseller. This review first appeared in the October 2010 issue of Bookseller+Publisher.

INTERVIEW: Monica McInerney on ‘At Home with the Templetons’ (Michael Joseph)

Monica McInerney spent six months researching stage fright, Irish surf schools and much more for her latest novel, she tells Rachel Wilson.

At Home with the Templetons, like all your novels, deals with family dynamics. What particular dynamics were you trying to explore in this novel and how do they differ from your previous books?

Families of all shapes and sizes fascinate me, but in my previous books the story focused on one family each time. What I wanted to do with this novel was bring two very different families—the seven unruly Templetons and the smaller unit of Nina Donovan and her son Tom—into each other’s orbit, with good and bad consequences. I also wanted to touch on issues such as jealousy in its many and damaging forms, the lasting impact of grief, the different aspects of motherhood and marriage, sibling rivalry and sibling loyalty, contrasting parenting styles, family secrets and lies, all against a background as rich in comedy and drama as possible.

It’s been three years since your last novel and I have read that you undertake extensive research before completing each one. Could you describe how you prepared for this book?

The starting point was visiting as many stately homes in Australia, Ireland and the UK as I could to help make my fictional Templeton Hall as authentic as possible. As the writing unfolded, I researched the antiques trade;  homeschooling; the Australian gold rush of the 1850s; architecture, interior design and clothing from that time; Captain Cook; stage fright; selective mutism; alternative therapies; the nanny industry; life as a freelance illustrator and painter; cricket; Irish surf schools; alcoholism and the rehab industry; spinal injuries; yabbying; and children’s television (though my own time working on the Here’s Humphrey children’s TV program in the 1980s helped there). I used the internet or read books or watched films on many of the different subjects but the best source of detail for me was talking to people who had first-hand experience of what I was writing about. It’s those fragments of fact that add the real colour to the story, I always hope. I also visited (or had previously visited) nearly every location mentioned in the book— Castlemaine and the Victorian gold fields, London (including Lord’s Cricket Ground), Melbourne, San Francisco, Chicago and Woodstock, Illinois, Auckland, Whitby in Yorkshire, the Isle of Skye, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Italy, France, Sligo in Ireland …

Could you describe your approach to writing and your working regimen?

I spend about six months plotting in my head before I sit at the computer and start writing. There’s usually an overlap between my books. I had the idea for At Home with the Templetons about three months before I finished Those Faraday Girls. Similarly, I had the idea for what will be my next book halfway through the Templetons. I aim for 2000 words a day minimum in the early stages of writing, getting very attached to the word-count button. A day always comes when the word count is irrelevant, when all I want to do is be at the desk writing. The final six months are usually seven days a week. I edit as I write, and also show the manuscript to two people in the early stages, my husband, who is a journalist, and my younger sister, who is an editor. I completely trust their feedback, and their encouragement keeps me on track until the manuscript is as polished as I can make it before sending it to my publishers. I also love deadlines. They terrify me into finishing. Continue reading

Top picks from the current issue

Which books got good reviews in the October issue of Bookseller+Publisher you ask?

Well…

The proof copy of Caroline Overington’s novel I Came to Say Goodbye came covered in glowing quotes from Random House staff who’ve read the book and our reviewer Scott Whitmont has joined the chorus. He calls the novel ‘a gripping blockbuster that booksellers can recommend unreservedly’ and predicts Overington’s following ‘is destined to grow in leaps and bounds’.

Toni Whitmont was impressed with That Deadman Dance by Miles Franklin winner Kim Scott (Picador, October), suggesting it will ‘surely attract consideration for a raft of major prizes’. ‘While the story is compelling,’ writes Whitmont, ‘what makes this an extraordinary book is the writing. Scott’s prose shimmers.’

Andrew Wilkins was equally taken with a collection of work by the late Dorothy Porter. Love Poems (Black Inc., October) ‘brings together poems and song lyrics from across Porter’s career, gathered into sections that suggest love in its various phases’ and is ‘simply an essential collection of Australian poetry,’ says Wilkins.

Other eagerly awaited books being reviewed in this issue include Tim Flannery’s Here On Earth (Text, October), which Eliza Metcalf says is ‘an important read’. ‘Flannery traces our species’ evolution and expansion out of Africa and across the globe, noting the trail of destruction we left in our wake,’ she writes. ‘The picture he paints is a fairly devastating one, but also quite awe-inspiring.’

Paul Landymore assures readers that When Colts Ran, the new novel by Roger McDonald (Vintage, November), lives up to expectations raised by the author’s Miles Franklin win in 2006. ‘If you’re a fan of Australian literature then I’m sure you will find this book, as I did, a deeply satisfying read,’ writes Landymore.

Deborah Crabtree, our regular music book columnist, was taken with Paul Kelly’s How to Make Gravy (Hamish Hamilton, October), a book that grew out of series of performances Kelly put on in 2004. ‘Part memoir, part tour diary, part song-writing manual, this sprawling book is filled with all manner of letters, lists, confessions, hymns and yarns,’ writes Crabtree, adding that the book gives Kelly ‘space to explore his storytelling skills further, which he does admirably, weaving in and out of the past and present easily and with an intimacy that invites the reader into his world’.

And that’s not to mention Lloyd Jones’ Hand Me Down World (Text, October), Kate Holden’s The Romantic (Text, October), Things Bogans Like (E C McSween et al, Hachette, November), Toni Jordan’s Fall Girl (Text, October), and many, many more…

To hear about this kind of thing waaaay early, sign up for our fortnightly newsletter here.

The new issue has landed!

Well, the shiny new issue of Bookseller+Publisher has landed, with a big fat 20 on the cover—that’d be Allen & Unwin, who are celebrating 20 years of independent publishing this year. Happy Birthday A&U!

The July issue is full of news, profiles, author interviews and of course, reviews. There are several titles that earned five stars this time around, including The Good Daughter (Honey Brown, Viking, July), which Kate Summers at Riverbend Books says ‘carries the same dark, atmospheric weight of Sonya Harnett’s books, with an authenticity that will resonate with teenage, as well as adult readers’; Jon Bauer’s Rocks in the Belly (Scribe, August)—anybody who reads this book and isn’t instantly a fan probably wasn’t paying close enough attention’, says B Owen Baxter—and Kindling (Darren Groth, Hachette, July), which Toni Whitmont of online bookshop Booktopia says ‘is an absolute stunner’, with ‘shades of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time‘, and ‘in parts, of Scot Gardner’s Burning Eddy‘.

Tony Wilson’s Making News (Pier 9, July) impressed Riverbend Bookshop’s Lee McGowan, who calls the novel ‘a scathing commentary on tabloid journalism’s gorge on the greasy spoon of contemporary celebrity’—’a fast-paced, near-realist melodrama sliced through with box-cutter blade humour’. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: The Bath Fugues (Brian Castro, Giramondo)

Brian Castro’s Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel The Bath Fugues (Giramondo) was reviewed back in the May/June 2009 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine by Max Oliver, a veteran Australian bookseller. Here’s what he had to say:

An extraordinary work, The Bath Fugues consists of three interwoven novellas, of which the third masterfully pulls together all the strands and themes of the preceding two. Each story centres on one person, with a large cast of real and imagined secondary characters. In the first, Jason Redvers, a one-time artist and counterfeiter, is dying, convinced that his wealthy Sydney patron, Walter Gottlieb, has appropriated his past. Redvers’ revenge, his ploy to set the record straight, involves writing an expose of the secret lives and proclivities of his friends and colleagues. The second novella focusses on the Portuguese judge and poet Camilo ConcieÇão, self-exiled to Macau in the 1920s—revelling in his mistresses, his bargain-hunting for Chinese art, his exotic persona and his opium pipes. The final tale is that of Dr Judith Sarraute, a well-connected Australian doctor, privy to the most private thoughts and passions of her patients, custodian of a cabinet of exotic venoms, and eventual owner of an art gallery into which she is persuaded by a well-connected acquaintance. Within the three tales many other characters emerge, reappearing from story to story in the fugal structure that Brian Castro has chosen to give form to his substance. And substance there certainly is. This novel requires intense concentration and I confess to letting some of the many references slide by in order to let the story flow. Continue reading