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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 na├»ve 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.

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