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Friday, August 27, 2010

August 24th


* Jon Bauer’s “ Rocks In The Belly”, reviewed here two weeks ago, is receiving a lot of publicity. He is a guest at the coming Melbourne Writers’ Festival

*….And all you “Buffy” fans will be rushing to hear Joss Whelan who is the speaker on opening Night of the Melbourne Writers Festival.

* Peter Ryan is a retired academic and former long-time editor of Melbourne University Press. In one of his “Quadrant” columns he heaped praise on LIBRARIANS [as we often do on this program] by means of a quote from the pages that precede the main text of that most wondrous of books “Moby Dick” where Melville wrote that librarians take lifelong pains to please and to serve, but are doomed to stay unthanked forever….but they will be exalted – in Heaven where they will be housed in glory.

* The short list for the annual Ned Kelly Awards , for crime fiction writing in Australia, has been announced. I must say, having read all three, I feel somewhat “underwhelmed”. If “The Black Russian” [ Bartulin], “Bleed For me” [ Robotham] and “ Wyatt’ [Disher] are the best we can muster in a year in this genre, why award the prize? Any comment from fellow readers?

* “Carnival Edge”, is the most recent collection of poems by Katherine Gallagher who will be offering a workshop in Torquay in September. ‘The Blurb’ hopes to speak with Katherine about her work later on.

* Jessica RUDD’s debut novel “Campaign Ruby” is in the shops now.

A wealth of information for writers, journalists and anyone interested in publishing and the book industry. The bestselling guide in its 103rd edition is completely revised and updated. The guide includes articles by top authors and media experts on key subjects for writers and illustrators.
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbooks contain information on a huge range of topics including copyright, finance, submitting a manuscript, e-publishing, prizes and awards. For more information follow the link to the Allen & Unwin website.

We have spoken about e-books before on ‘the blurb’, but here is some further information about them.

Digital technology is transforming the book publishing industry. Since the release of e-books in 2005, hundreds of titles have been made available in this format from retails all around the world.
Not all books are suited to all eBook formats and not all retailers carry all eBook formats, so you may need to check more than one retailer if you’re looking for an eBook edition of a particular book. Prices may vary too, as they are controlled by the retailer.
Most books are released in hardcopy and electronic format at the same time. You do need a reader to be able to buy e-books, you can get them on your iPhone, iPad or iPod or through book retails. Every retailer will have there own version of a readers and the application that allows you to download the e-book to your reader.

Inspired by the ABC TV series. This book by William McInnes shares stories about Australia and its people since World War Two. It might make a great Father’s Day gift, with Father’s Day just around the corner. ‘Making of Modern Australia’ is available now at all good book shops.


“ The Death Of A Bird” by A.D.Hope. Gazing out to sea, have you never wondered about the magnitude of the task all those migrating birds undertake as they wing their way across oceans and continents?

BOOK REVIEW: "Into The Beautiful North, Luis Alberto Urrea

“Into The Beautiful North” by Mexican writer Luis Alberto Urrea is a beautiful story,wonderfully told.
It is present-day Mexico.Tres Camarones is a sadly-typical poverty-stricken village which has little hope of ever becoming anything else. A run-down picture show, a makeshift bar and a church are the only signs of community. Most of the men have fled to “the beautiful North”, hoping to sneak into the United States in search of luck or work or simply escape. A pair of drug-running crooks arrive in the village and size it up as ripe for the pickings. They have not, however, reckoned on the resource funess of the town’s new mayor [Zia Irma, regional ten pin bowling champion] and a handful of ‘cool’ young women who will develop a plan for saving their modest home town.
Their leader is the feisty Nayeli who has a vision the night after she sees “The Magnificent Seven”Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner are still their Hollywood heroes. ‘Why can’t we go North and find a handful of “magnificent” men to deliver their village from its imminent threat?” Equipped with Tia Irma car and money and accompanied by “the only gay in the village’, the flamboyant but generous Tacho, they head for Tijuana. The rest of the book records their adventures with immigration agents, thieves, prostitutes and all sorts of predators, intent upon thwarting their naïve plan. As well as delivering a compact yet complete portrait of the main characters, Urrea introduces us to the dirty, feral, violent but very brave Atomica, lifelong denizen of the Tijuana rubbish dump who becomes an unlikely knight in ragged armour. Later there is even a cross-country [San Diego to Miinneapolis] road trip by Tacho and Nayeli in which the reader shares.
…And all of this in just 338 pages. Nayeli in particular is a memorable and heroic character: selfless, creative and resourceful, she doesn’t even get her man in the end. No matter. The girls find their unlikely “magnificent’ compadres and return home, ready for the fray.

This novel is by turns funny, sad, riveting and instructive. Urrea is close to his characters, having worked for many years alongside the ragpickers of Tijuana. This is another snapshot of the underside of contemporary North America.
I recommend this novel to all readers of any age.
Rating: ****

Luis Alberto Urrea: “Into The Beautiful North”, Little Brown,2010, rrp.$30,pp 338.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lisa-Reece Lane author of ‘Milk Fever’

‘Milk Fever’ was review on the show 4 weeks ago and this week Robyn had the chance to talk to Lisa-Reece Lane about her book, and what a fantastic interview it was…here is some of what she had to say.

Lisa-Reece Lane on the inspiration behind her characters-
Tom started off as a short story which is the first chapter really, but Julia came to me and I wanted to tell her story too. I see the book a sort of a modern day Madam Bovary.

Lisa-Reece Lane on the idea that everyone has their own song-
It’s true that I am influenced by music. When writing this book I wanted to give my characters a soundtrack to their life. It is important for me in my writing that the sentences I use have the right rhythm, otherwise I won’t use them.

Lisa-Reece Lane on writing about romance-
I am a romance disaster! So I don’t set out to write about it, but it is a powerful force. I think we write about the things we most need to learn about and that was why ‘Milk Fever’ turned out the way it did. The human heart is fascinating to me.

Lisa-Reece Lane on writing and who influences her -
I feel a little more self conscious about my writing. I am very disciplined with it because I feel like someone is watching over me when I write saying “you can’t write that, it doesn’t make any sense”.
I love the writing of Rose Tremain, Melinda Haynes and I am currently reading Marcus Zusak “The Book Thief”.

Lisa-Reece Lane on the world of blogging-
I started my blog because someone at Murdoc suggested it. The best thing I get out of my blog is the people I’ve met and the support they give me.

This wonderful author had some high praises for our show sending us the following e-mail:
Hi Robyn. Hi Bernard.
I just wanted to let you know how much I loved being on your show
yesterday. You both have such a warm friendly manner so I felt like I
was chatting with a couple of friends. Great questions too. I'm still
thinking about what music Milk Fever would have as soundtrack.
Here's wishing you both continued success and lots of fun on The Blurb.
Warmest best wishes,


This week on the show we played tracks from these artists;

- ‘Space They Cannot Touch’ by Kate Miller-Heidke from her album ‘Little Eve’
- ‘Beaches’ by Bridezilla from their debut album ‘The First Dance’

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 17th


* Recently discussed “ The March Of Patriots” and “The Politics Of Suffering” have both been short-listed for the John Button Prize for non-fiction.

*Melbourne Writers Festival- Special appearances from New York Times bestselling novelist Bret Easton Ellis, much loved screenwriter and director across film, t.v and the web Joss Whedon (Toy Story, Avengers, Buffy, Firefly, Glee) and one of Australia’s most critically acclaimed writers for young people Melinda Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, The Piper’s Son).

*Melbourne Writers’ Festival- Geelong Tour! Authors Simmone Howell, Jack Heath, Michael Pryor and Penni Russon will make appearances at Geelong at the West Town Hall on Saturday 21st.
Check for details.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Roseanne Hawke author of ‘Marrying Ameera’

“ Seventen-year-old Ameera Hassan has just finished school and her friendship with Tariq, her best friend’s older brother, is growing. When her Muslim father hears of it, he sends her to stay with his family in Kashmir where – as far as she knows – she is to attend her cousin Jamila’s wedding. Only when she gets there does she discover the devastating truth that the intended marriage is not her cousin’s but her own”. [From the cover blurb of “ Marrying Ameera”.]

Roseanne is still a teacher in Adelaide, but has quite a long list of published works, mostly for younger children. Her latest book sits in that genre that reaches [ I would say] across Older Teen into the Adult
reader group, in the way of “ Looking For Alibrandi” or “ The Boy In Striped Pyjamas”, Rosanne is well-placed to write on this topic having spent nearly a decade working as a volunteer in Pakistan. She said it was partly the shock she registered upon returning to Australia amid the new and raucous concerns about our alleged over-generosity to refugees: how would she and her family have felt if they were fleeing a war zone and were trying to find a new life in a peaceful country like Australia? Hence the gradual emergence of this new book.

A feature of the novel which I found striking was the revelation that both the Pakistan government and the British have strong legislation against ‘forced marriage’ and have put in place ways of preventing such abuses as well as processes for helping the victim…..Just look at the headlines if you think such things do not happen.

This is a convincing story though fictional. We feel confronted by the brazen brutality of Ameera’s cousin in his efforts to “protect’ her; the climax following the forced marriage is devastating yet believable.

I think this is a MUST READ for all of us, young people and adults alike. As a nation we are still complacent in less or greater degrees to the world issue of refugees. [I am proud of the efforts of so many in our region who have opened their hearts to so many in recent years, by the way.]


“Marrying Ameera”, A&R, $19-95,pp 292…Available now in all good bookshops.


This is a new feature on our blog so if you like the songs we play you can look them up.

The week on the show we played tracks from up-and-coming Australian artists:

- ‘Darling’ by Country Town Collective
- ‘At the Gate’ by Jehan
- ‘Sweet Disposition’ by The Temper Trap


We have all our regulars plus a guest reviewer, SUSAN DODD, who will be reviewing ‘Hail & Hardy’. We will also chat to our friends at Angus & Robertson about new releases and what’s popular in the literary world right now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 10th

Apologies: Robyn and Stephanie were unable to be with us this week.

Welcome again to the new regulars on our team, Zane who works the pannel for us and Rhia who is on board as producer.


E-BOOKS: Where is it all going? Do YOU know? Do YOU care? We have a strong interest in this issue on ‘The Blurb’ and we will be looking at the effects it has on the literary world in the future. Please let us know how/whether you use them.

WHY READ? In her introduction to an article in Saturday’s “Age”, Jane Sullivan quoted an essayist, Alberto Manguel: “I believe there is an ethic of reading, a responsibility in how we read, a commitment that is both political and private in the act of turning the pages and following the lines….And I believe that sometimes, beyond the reader’s intentions and beyond the reader’s hopes, a book can make us better and wiser”.
Later Jane adds: ‘Most of all, advocates [of reading] stress, reading should be fun, not some dull, dutiful task. It’s OK to skip and skim…’
Finally, advice from Lord Balfour, a British PM: “….read only what is interesting”.

* The classic Australian novel by Christina Stead, “The Man Who Loved Children” has been resurrected Stateside due to an endorsement by the author of that long novel beloved of Book Club planners, “The Corrections” [ Franzen]. Try buying it: what about it, Penguin?

* Melbourne Writers’ Festival: the program is available from your local library. Lots of free public events. We will tell you next week about visitors to GEELONG.

* The latest edition of “The Monthly” has lots of politics, but also the usual excellent film and bok reviews, including a brief look at “Rocks in The Belly” reviewed here last week.“Rocks’ was also given a long review in Saturday’s “Australian”. Read, compare.


Due circumstances beyond our control, I had only a few minutes to talk books as such this week, just when I thought I was left with 25 minutes to fill. This wouldn’t be a burden as I had about TEN new histories I was going to discuss, albeit it briefly. Listeners will have to wait for my LECTURE on this very rich and sometimes controversial topic eg: who CONTROLS our national narratives? Memoir vs history? LOCAL histories? Biogrphy..autobiography? History/ies and the new technologies?
For now: These are some interesting books that have come my way this year. I have grouped them roughly.

Local History:
McKernan –
“ The valley”. Former Head of History at the Canberra War Memorial writes about the Jugiong/Goulburn district. Very entertaining tale by a master.
McInnes – “The Making Of Australia”. William’s chatty but broad-ranging tie-in book : see the TV series on ABC Thursdays.
Australians At War: Perry – “ The Brownlow At Changi”. Ive not read it yet,but it is getting good reviews.
Cleary – “ The Men Who Came Out Of The ground”. The amazing story of the “Sparrow Force” in Timor during the darkest days of WWII. Good to read in view of our recent [ post 1972] relationship with Timor Leste [sic].

Australian History:
Moore – “ Death Or Liberty” [Rebels and Radicals Tranported To Australia 1788 to 1886]. I found this a ripper read,probably because it is a topic dear to my heart. It is very accessible history, and very revealing: according to Moore’s quite tight definition, 3600 political prisoners were sent to the colonies in the period of transportation. WHY they were convicted and what happened to them tells us a lot about the “underbelly” of what makes us who we are.
Shellam – “Shaking hands On The Rim” tells the stoiry oif the first European encounters between Europeans [ British soldiers] and the local Aborigines in he Swan Colony [ later WA] in 1826 and the years soon after….which was initially very congenial – until the convicts arrived.
Dillon and Butler – “ Macquarie,from Colony To Country”. There has been a lot written about this governor, but not for a while. Again, very easy to read, and the new research shows Macquarie’s sometimes naïve humanity to the fore.[ If you ever have the chance to do a ‘Macquarie Tour’ of the Sydney region…Maybe THAT’s what I can do in my retirement.]

D’Alpuget –
“ Hawke The Prime Minister”. It is hard to escape the ‘back story’ here, though Blanche writes well, Her choice of interviewees is rather selective which is always a problem wiith contemporary history [and journalism] especially when the writer is the subject’s wife!One for the political junkies.

All of these books are published in Australia so your bookshop can get them for you. I will publish an up-date on this broad genre from time to time.


We were pleased to be able o talk with CATHERINE COLE this week. Catherine is a well-known author and is Professor of Creative Writing at RMIT University. She spent a long time teaching in Vietnam which has led her to collecting writings from and about that intriguing country, “ The Perfume River” The anthology includes poetry, short stories, excerpts from novels and journals, many in translation., providing quite a spectrum of reflections by the Vietnamese and Australian writers. Catherine is also one of the judges on the panel of The Age ‘Book of the year’ award.
‘The Blurb’ chatted with Catherine about some of the book’s themes and how the collection came about.

The themes permeating through the anthology included the struggles of being in a new place and culture with no language skills, the generational gap, war and reconciliation, sharing of personal stories and the universal theme of humanity.

Catherine on Australian’s interest in Vietnam-
“The thing about Vietnam is that Australian’s find its past interesting because
of the turmoil and turbulence of war, and because of its rich culture.”

Catherine on writing the Anthology from a Vietnamese perspective-
“These stories had to be translated, because of the cross cultural divide and
the limitations of translators, getting the right nuances and subtleties into
the stories was problematic and difficult.”

Though she did point out that language is a cultural builder and the importance of literature and film in expanding our cultural understanding.

Catherine on culture-
“To be an Australian is to be from somewhere else. There is a level of
appreciation of difference and an understanding that everyone brings something
unique to our culture.”


We will be interviewing Adelaide writer ROSEANNE HAWKE about her new novel “Marrying Ameera”, about a Pakistani-Australian girl’s struggle to remain independent in the face of her father’s rather sinister marriage plans for her. Very topical and very moving. It is available in book stores now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tuesday 27th July

Today we farewelled (for now) producer Sarah McInnes as she starts full time work in Melbourne - thanks Sarah for all your hard work, particularly on keeping the blog up to date!

Book News from Steph Crawford in Melbourne
Some pre-election reading for listeners:
The Making of Julia Gillard by Jacqueline Kent
The Making of Julia Gillard tells Julia Gillard's remarkable story, including her Adelaide childhood, her time as a student activist, her battles to get into Parliament and her relationships with the important men in her political life, Simon Crean, Kim Beazley, Mark Latham and Kevin Rudd. Acclaimed biographer Jacqueline Kent draws on interviews with Julia Gillard's friends and foes and with Julia herself to reveal just how adversarial her environment has been and how she has thrived.

Battlelines (Updated Edition) by Tony Abbott
Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott offers a frank analysis of the way forward for the Liberal Party. In Battlelines, Tony Abbott looks at the values and instincts that drive the Liberal Party and proposes policy that the party should adopt. This is the story of his own political development. He describes the truth about politicians' lives. Battlelines outlines a state of play for the Liberal Party, cementing Tony Abbott's reputation as one of the Liberal Party's most interesting thinkers and fearless advocates.

Dublin, the fourth UNESCO* City of Literature
Melbourne welcomes Dublin into the international Creative Cities network as the fourth City of Literature. Dublin has always been a literary capital and the home of many great writers.
The UNESCO Cities of Literature around the world include Melbourne, Iowa, Edinburgh and now Dublin. The four cities share ideas, plans and projects.
*UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Penguin books competition
You need to go to to enter a competition to win a beautifully crafted Mark Tuckey recycled hardwood bookshelf along with your choice of 75 Popular Penguins titles. Competition is open until Monday August 16.

And other news...
Rotary Monster book sale - details here
Coming soon - the film version of John Marsden's "Tomorrow when the war began"

To Kill A Mockingbird anniversary edition out now (available from sponsors Paton Books) Harper Lee’s hometown (Monroeville, Alabama) featured in one of the weekend paper’s TRAVEL sections. It was the model for her famous novel’s 'Maycomb'.

Look out for:
DBC Pierre's new book "Lights out in Wonderland" "Mr Pip" by Lloyd Jones, and Sara Gruen's "Ape House" recommended by Kathryn of Paton Books

Latest Griffith Review - "Prosper or Perish" is dedicated to environmental issues and has excellent essays regarding the need for sensitive town planning, appropriate infrastructure, etc. A must-read for all of us. Available at your libraries.

Thoughts for a possible new segment: What do these ‘news cliches’ mean? Where do they come from? Today's cliche: DOG WHISTLE (as in “Are Abbott and Gillard DOGWHISTLING with their talk of overpopulation fears?”) I think the expression derives from the fact that dogs alone (and Superman) can hear certain high-frequency whistling….hence, pollies might almost float an idea to get “certain elements” excited…. policy positions they can deny if they want to – because no-one else saw it that way.
Have you got the idea of the quiz?

FOR NEXT WEEK: what is meant when analyst refer to Eden-Monaro as a “ BELL WETHER” seat? And where does the term come from?

OUR POEM this week is “Anthem For Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen, included in the score of Benjamin Britten’s epic “War Requiem”, performed last week to rapturous response at Melbourne Town Hall.

Bernard reviews "Roddy Parr" by Peter Rose - read here
Robyn reviews "Milk Fever" by Lisa Reece-Lane here

Jo from Blurb sponsor Angus & Robertson Books Geelong joined us for a chat about what's hot, A&R's top 100 and what's coming up. Author Isobel Carmody recently visited the Geelong store to promote her latest book, The Kingdom of the Lost: The Red Wind and will be in Queenscliff on Thursday the 5th of August 6:30 pm, bookings through The Mystery Bookshop Queenscliff VIC 5258 4660.