2015 – salt creek – lucy treloar

Salt Creek Lucy Treloar

It has been closer to me of late, its outlines growing clear again. Not two weeks ago letters and an old tin trunk crammed with items from the past arrived from South Australia. It was dented, dusty still, and a finger drawn across its skin left a smudge on my fingers. Could it be the grime of the Coorong after such a journey? On a whim I licked it from my fingers – salt – and swallowed to keep it safe.

Earlier this month, I reviewed Lucy Treloar’s debut novel, Salt Creek for Newtown Review of Books. At the time, it had won the Indie Award for debut fiction, made the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction – and just a day or two before my review was published, had been longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. It’s since been longlisted for the Dobbie award for a debut novel by a woman writer. In other words, Salt Creek is everywhere at the moment – and deservedly so.

If you’re interested, you can read my review of Salt Creek here.

I know I say this every time I post a NRB review, but I can’t say it enough – thanks to Linda and Jean for publishing me. There’s really only one way to learn how to write book reviews, and that’s by actually writing book reviews. NRB provides not only an online space for the work of emerging critics to learn their craft, but feedback on their work, which is invaluable for those of us still learning our craft.

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I’d been putting off reading Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things for the longest time. I’m not sure why. I bought it as soon as it came out, and it’s been sitting on my bedside table since.

Perhaps my hesitation is because Wood’s writing always leaves me devastated – in a good way, but still devastated – and I’ve been feeling fragile for months now. Either way, I finally picked it up last week and gulped it down in two marathon sittings, finally turning the last page at 1am and remaining awake for hours after. And yes, it’s devastating, but it’s also beautiful and sad and funny and intensely moving. I’d love to write more about this novel, but I doubt I have anything new to add, other than my sincere admiration.

Anyway – while on the subject of books and awards, I was so thrilled to see The Natural Way of Things win this year’s Stella Prize. You can read Charlotte’s amazing acceptance speech here.

book to the future bookmarks #5

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Welcome to the fifth edition of Book to the Future Bookmarks, a series of fortnightly posts in which I bombard you with just a few of the many links I’ve bookmarked during the week.

Being edition number five, it seems only fitting to include five links this time around.

(This is also because I’m working on a huge, complicated review at the moment, and these days, it seems as though I’m only able to concentrate on one thing at a time. Thanks, brain!)

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Number five is aliiiive!

1. Shelf Denial

My lovely Ikea Expedit bookshelf looks fairly neat in this photo, taken last year for a guest post on Michelle5The Incredible Rambling Elimy’s blog (here’s the post, if you’re interested). But since then, more and more books have found their way into my home, and my once-organised shelves are now double-stacked. Triple-stacked in places. There are piles of books forming on the floor in my study again.

It’s chaos. Admittedly, chaos of the best kind, but chaos nonetheless.

Sadly, I’m lacking the space for another big bookshelf. Which is a problem, because, much to the dismay of bookish types and vinyl lovers, Ikea will soon be discontinuing their classic Expedit range.

According to Gizmodo, it’s an environmental move. I appreciate that. And the Expedit is being replaced with a range that’s very similar; available in the same range of colours. But, at the same time, this means I’ll never be able to find another bookshelf that’s quite the same as my much-loved, much overloaded Expedit bookcase.

Oh, Ikea. For the love of meatballs, nøøøøøø.

2. Far from the reading crowd: literature from a distance

This article in The New Yorker on Franco Moretti’s work on Distant Reading – for which he recently received America’s National Book Critics Circle award – makes for interesting reading.

Moretti argues that literary criticism should be considered as a science rather than an art. Using software, Moretti examines the changed in literary trends over time. Joshua Rothmann, author of the New Yorker article, is sceptical, but fascinated.

I’m not really sure that Moretti’s work can be construed as “literary criticism”, per se. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. I’m definitely intrigued….

3. Draw About Love

I (um) might have blogged about this before (in fact, I know I have) but I’m kind of obsessed with Belle and Sebastian – arguably the most bookish of bands. If you love B&S too, chances are you’ll want to bookmark Draw About Love. It’s the Tumblr of an artist dedicated to translating some of Belle and Sebastian’s best songs and lyrics into art. There are a few misses here and there, and updates are few and unfortunately far between, but I really like the fun, quirky aesthetic of these images.

4. Have you heard the one about the two existentialists at a shooting gallery?

It sounds like the setup to a joke, but it really happened.

Turns out that the very first photo taken of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre together shows the pair at a Paris shooting range; de Beauvoir, smiling, with her eyes closed and a gun in her hands, while Sartre, a pipe in his mouth, rests a hand on her shoulder.

I guess that’s one way to deal with that existential angst. This article over at Open Culture explains everything.

5. The new normal – Zadie Smith on climate change

I read Zadie Smith’s essay on climate change on the New York Review of Books website last night as a huge electrical storm overhead turned the night into oddly-lit day. It seemed appropriate. Thoughts clattered into place. Here’s a little extract:

[..] The climate was one of those facts. We did not think it could change. That is, we always knew we could do a great deal of damage to this planet, but even the most hubristic among us had not imagined we would ever be able to fundamentally change its rhythms and character, just as a child who has screamed all day at her father still does not expect to see him lie down on the kitchen floor and weep.

This is a staggering piece of writing. I won’t say another word about it – I’ll just leave the link right here and let you take a look for yourself. Totally worth it.

Bonus round…

Great news: the Stella Prize shortlist is out!

Bad news: Sydney institution, Shearer’s Books, will be closing down. They’ll still be around online, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Announced this morning, the news has left this Western Sydney reader with a heavy heart. It makes me sad to see good bookshops close.

Finally, the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Best Blogs competition is on again this year, and if you’re a blogger, you really should enter. You’ve got until this Thursday. Click here to take a look. Good luck!

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What I’m reading looking forward to reading… 

I’m skipping my usual What I’m Reading update this week because I haven’t had as much reading time over the past two weeks as I’d like. That, and I’m still reading pretty much the same stuff I was reading two weeks ago.

Instead, I thought I’d mention a book that I’m looking forward to reading.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed (and enjoyed) Jessie Cole’s 2012 novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town. Because I’m nosy, I couldn’t resist getting in touch with Jessie to find out what she’s up to next.

As it turns out, my timing was spot on – Jessie’s new novel, Deeper Water, will be out later this year. Here’s an early look at the blurb:

“The secret things I knew about my mum, and the things that everyone knew, had played in my mind for some time, since I was real little, I guess. When I was small, all around me seemed to flow, gentle and sweet like the quiet edge of the creek. Then my brothers grew too large to be hemmed in, and Sophie met a bloke, moved out and had babies, and things became harder. The older I got the louder those secret things inside me became, all those knowns and unknowns, until – apart from Anja – I’d rather talk to animals than people.”

 

Innocent and unworldly, Mema is still living at home with her mother on a remote, lush hinterland property. It is a small, confined, simple sort of life, and Mema is content with it. One day, during a heavy downpour, Mema saves a stranger from a flooded creek. She takes him into her family home, where, marooned by floods, he has to stay until the waters recede. And without even realising it, he opens the door to a new world of possibilities that threaten to sweep Mema into the deep.

I can’t wait to dip into Deeper Water. Is there a book coming out soon that’s got you excited? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll have another post online tomorrow night. Something special…!

book to the future bookmarks #2

bookmarksiiiWelcome to edition number two of Book to the Future Bookmarks, a new series of fortnightly posts in which I share some of the many, many links I’ve saved to my bookmarks folder.

I started my first Bookmarks post with a huge picture of current crush, Benedingle Cumberwhatsit Benedict Cumberbatch. But in the grand scheme of things, what’s a mere crush compared to true literary lurve? Nothing! It seems only fitting that I begin the second edition of Bookmarks with…

Original image source here
Original image source here.

…Zadie Smith, of course. If you haven’t already read Zadie’s latest short story, Moonlit Landscape with Bridge, over on the New Yorker’s website, you’re missing out. Here’s a little sample:

“…But he remembered two young men bent over one battered paperback, under a tree in the cleared center of a village. Books had been important back then—they were always quoting from them. Long-haired boys, big ideas. These days, all the Prime Minister read was his bank statements.”

I enjoyed Smith’s novella, The Embassy of Cambodia, released late last year…but it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. I’m not sure whether this was because Smith left the story at a point where I desperately wanted to know what happened next, or whether I was just eager for something longer. Possibly both. Personally, I have my fingers crossed that Zadie (we’re on first name basis) is working on a collection of short fiction…

Anyway. Enough wishful thinking. You can read more about Moonlit Landscape here.

The 2014 Stella Prize longlist is out! The Stella is Australia’s most exciting literary award (and they got it so, so right last year, with Carrie Tiffany’s brilliant Mateship with Birds taking out the inaugural prize). Given the number of Big Novels released by Australian men towards the end of last year (think Alex Miller, Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas…), it’s great that the Stella Prize is on the case, making sure that writing by Australian women doesn’t go unrecognised.

…However, I’m yet to read any of the longlisted novels, so I’d better get a wriggle on! Luckily, there’s a review roundup over at the Australian Women Writers Challenge blog.

If you’ve ever wanted to flash Melbourne’s Federation Square, here’s your chance. The wonderful people at Spineless Wonders are looking for flash fiction to grace the big screen at Fed Square during the Melbourne Writers’ Festival this year…why, what did you think I meant? Writers can find out more about the project here.

Look, I know I mentioned Ryan O’Neill in my first Bookmarks post…and the post before that…and I’m beginning to sound like some kind of crazed stalker (sorry) but I’m really enjoying The Drover’s Wives project over at Seizure. O’Neill has taken Henry Lawson’s classic short story, The Drover’s Wife and is re-working it in sixty different ways. So far, The Drover’s Wife has become a self-published book cover, an absurdist play, a horoscope and more. Sadly, not all of the pieces are free to read, but here’s a link to the project so far.

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I’m kind of obsessed with these stunning 1920s posters advertising the London Underground. I love them almost as much as I love this collection of sarcastic, witty, puerile – and, ultimately fake Underground signs. Genius. Get me to London, pronto.

I’ve mentioned my longstanding adoration for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince on this blog an embarrassing number of times. When I spotted this article at Brain Pickings about Saint-Exupéry’s manuscript for the book, including the author’s original watercolour illustrations, I was, naturally, all over it. Whether you’re a fan of The Little Prince or not, these illustrations are beautiful. And this, from the accompanying article:

“In April of 1943, shortly after the book came out, 43-year-old Saint-Exupéry shoved his Little Prince manuscripts and drawings in a brown paper bag, handing it to his friend Silvia Hamilton — “I’d like to give you something splendid,” he told her, “but this is all I have.” — and departed for Algiers as a military pilot with the Free French Air Force.”

Just reading this short piece on Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex made me feel like picking de Beauvoir’s masterwork up again.  I read The Second Sex for for the first time at around the same age as the author of this article, greedily devouring the entire thing over the course of a single weekend.

From France back to Melbourne: Readings has announced a duo of new literary awards. Can we ever have too many literary awards? Somehow, I don’t think so.

And finally, my favourite discovery of the past fortnight is Poet Deploriate.

Other Things I’ve Been Reading…

the-line-of-beautyI’ve been kind of wrapped up with work the past week or so, and haven’t had as much time for reading as I’d have liked…

In my first Bookmarks post, I mentioned I was reading Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty. I drew my reading out as long as I possibly could because I really didn’t want the book to be over. I think it’s kind of appropriate that I read this novel immediately after The Swimming-Pool Library. They work well together.

An odd coincidence: The Paris Review just happened to tweet their Art of Fiction interview with Alan Hollinghurst from 2011 the other day.

Unfortunately, I’ve got no time left to explore more of Hollinghurst’s writing. I’ve got a huge pile of books that has accumulated next to my keyboard, waiting to be read. Also, my ereader is full of unread things, all jostling for my attention.

But the good news? I’ve managed to get a heap of time off work, and I’ve got little else to do but catch up on my (many) unwritten reviews and work my way through the pile of books accumulating on my desk.

My next Bookmarks post is going to be huge. Meanwhile, thanks for reading!

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and the winner of the inaugural stella prize is…

I spent my entire train trip home tonight huddled over the screen of my iPhone, frantically refreshing my Twitter feed over and over again, waiting impatiently for the announcement of the winner of the very first Stella Prize.

When the result came through, I couldn’t have been happier.

The winner of the Stella Prize is my favourite novel of 2012, Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with Birds!

2012Here’s Kerryn Goldsworthy’s lovely analysis of Mateship with Birds over on the Stella Prize website. My review is right here.

Congratulations to Carrie Tiffany (who announced in her acceptance speech that she’s giving ten thousand dollars of her fifty thousand dollar prize money to the authors shortlisted for the award – what a incredibly generous gesture!) as well as all the other short- and longlisted authors. Also, congratulations to the Stella Prize team on the successful launch of an award that’s already giving the Australian literary scene a much-needed shake.

Will I finally stop raving about Mateship with Birds now? Not likely. Especially now that it’s made the longlist for the Miles Franklin award. Could Mateship with Birds take out Australia’s “most prestigious” book prize as well as Australia’s newest literary award? Only time will tell.

Mateship with Birds is also nominated for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award (along with Charlotte Wood’s Animal People and Gillian Mears’ Foal’s Bread – another two of my favourites from 2012!) as well as the Kibble Literary Award.

It’s an exciting time to be a reader, and an exciting time for Australian women’s writing!