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Friday, September 17, 2010

September 14th

Book & Publishing News

*The Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards for 2010 were announced Friday August 20 to coincide with ‘Children’s Book Week’ here is the short list and winners;

Book of the Year: Older Readers
-‘Stolen’, Lucy Christopher
-‘The Winds of Heaven’, Judith Clarke
-‘Liar’, Justine Larbalester
-‘Jarvis 24’, David Metzenthen (Winner)
-‘A Small Free Kiss in the Drak’, Glenda Millard
-‘Loving Richard Feynman’, Penny Tangey

Book of the Year: Younger Readers
-‘Matty Forever’, Elizabeth Fensham
-‘Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool’, Odo Hirsch (Winner)
-‘Running with the Horses’, Alison Lester
-‘The Whisperer’, Fiona McIntosh
- ‘Pearl Versus the World’, Sally Murphy, Illustrated by Heather Potter
-‘Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children’- Jen Storer

Book of the Year: Early Childhood
-‘The Wrong Book’, Nick Bland
-‘Kip’, Christina Booth
-‘The Terrible Plop’, Ursula Dubosarsky, Illustrated by Andrew Joyner
-‘Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House’, Libby Gleeson, Illustrated by Freya Blackwood
-‘Bear & Chook by the Sea’, Lisa Shanahan, Illustrated by Emma Quay (Winner)
-‘Fearless’, Colin Thompson, Illustrated by Sarah Davis

Picture Book of the Year
-‘Isabella’s Garden’, Rebecca Cool & Glenda Millard
-‘Schumann the Shoeman’, Stella Danalis & John Danalis
-‘To the Top End: Our Trip Across Australia’, Roland Harvey
-‘Mr Chicken Goes to Paris’, Leigh Hobbs
-‘Fox and Fine Feathers’, Narelle Oliver
-‘The Hero of Little Street’, Gregory Rogers (Winner)

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
-‘Prehistoric Giants: The Megafauna of Australia’, ‘M is for Mates: Animals in Wartime from Ajax to Zep, Danielle Clode
-‘Australia Backyard Explorer’, Peter MacInnis (Winner)
-‘Polar Eyes: A Journey to Antarctica’, Tanya Patrick, Illustrated by Nicholas Hutcheson
-‘Lost! A True Tale From the Bush’, Stephanie Owen Reeder
-‘Maralinga: The Anangu Story’, Yalata & Oak Communities with Christobel Mattingley

This Weeks Review: ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Malantes

“Arma virumque cano…”/” I sing of arms and the man…” Thus begins the epic poem by the Roman Virgil, the story of the founding of Rome written in the century before Christ [but borrowing heavily from the much older Greek epics known as The Iliad and The Odyssey.] And Virgil’s Aeneid is about war and more war. The Jewish Torah - the foundation of the Christian Old Testament - has lots of skirmishes and conquests and invasions too, and we know Mohamet drew heavily on the Book of Genesis for the early parts of The Koran. I lack familiarity with the great Indian epics much less the ancient writings from the “Far East”. Our Western cultural canon. I would argue, however, is replete with feats of arms in all sorts of circumstances and with various motivations. Is it any surprise then that if we look at the Art – literature, painting, sculpture – of more recent history that the feats of men [sic] under arms still dominate the subject matter?

If we take the popular entertainment medium of television, nowadays the screens have quite a load of police investigative and procedural shows on offer. I remember the Sixties’ programming was full of Westerns – and the picture theatres of the Fifties and Sixties rang with gunshots from “Cowboy’n’Indian” films, with lots of World War II heroic stories thrown in.

So, there is so much about WARRING in there, isn’t there?
If we look more closely at the literature of the last 100 years, it too has addressed what seem to be eternal questions for humankind:
Why do men go to war?
What happens to them there?
The First World War gave us classics from the German side: “All Quiet On The Western Front” and “ The Good Soldier Schweik”, to name a couple I read years ago. The writings of Sigfried Sassoon “Memoirs Of An Infantry Officer” as well as his numerous poems, and Robert Graves “Goodbye To All That” along with the poetry of Wilfrid Owen and Isaac Rosenberg still haunt my memory from school days. I remember Norman Mailer for “The Naked And The Dead”, his novel about World War Two, more than for his later efforts.

When we come to the American war in Vietnam, films – “Platoon”. “Hamburger Hill”, “The Deerhunter”, “Fourth Of July” – were the first public artistic responses. Gradually, from the late Seventies on, as the nation had time to begin healing itself from the effects domestically of the political, physical and emotional trauma of the twenty years of conflict, we saw some significant writing emerge. Michael Herr’s rather journalistic book “Dispatches” became the framework for Coppola’s screenplay for the unforgettable “Apocalyspe Now”. Some of the more memorable novels still well worth reading included Philip Caputo’s, Tim O’Brien’s and Bobbie Mason’s. We in Australia are only now able to read how the war affected the Vietnamese, thanks to the work of Nam Le and others. [I am disregarding for present purposes the huge volume of non-fiction on this topic.]

This year we have “Matterhorn”, the best novel on Vietnam I have read so far. Author Karl Malantes is not only a highly-decorated veteran of the “Vietnam War” but a very well-educated academic in a number of fields. He has said the present opus is the result of thirty years’ work.
“Matterhorn” tells the story of a handful of men from a Marines’ company posted to the very north of Eastern South Vietnam, close to the “Demilitarized Zone”[MZ] and the border with Laos. Their broad objective is never quite specified, but it appears they are there to stop supplies from North Vietnam reaching the Viet Cong and NVN forces further south. This obscurity colours the mission throughout, leading to so many of the deaths and the [almost] ineffectiveness of the men’s role. No sooner has a zone been taken than the company is ordered to vacate, or re-direct or return to base camp. While the continuing agony of the lives of the soldiers is real enough, it is the boredom and futility of their lives that affect the reader most. Their situation is aggravated by the soldiers’ apparently knowing that “now” – in 1968 – their task is already being undermined by the officers further up the command line. Thrown into the mix are very edgy racial tensions between the African-American Marines and the rest, as well as the usual frictions that occur when humans are thrown together in isolation. Their “work” is to take and re-take a balded bit of mountain called “Matterhorn”. There are patrols and night guarding, retrieval of dead and wounded, off-lifting of the latter to helicopters under fire, drunken reflections, fist fights, threats of mutiny and endless post-action recriminations….If the company, eventually decimated, survives at all it is because of that unique human characteristic called bonding. They finally only have each other.
The action is seen mainly through the eyes of twenty-one-year-old Second Lieutenant Waino Mellas, thrust into leadership straight from university in a mid-Western town. He is a kindly man, willing to be with his charges every step of the way, no braver than the rest but willing to hold onto the awful burdens his rank has given him. Each time a crisis is ridden out, Marlantes also provides reactions from a handful of the men in the ranks whom we get to know as intimately as we do Mellas. It is a story about the HUMANITY of people living in the midst of war: the fear, the thirst and ‘petty’ diseases, the feelings of loneliness and abandonment, the recurring sense of loss and, above all, of futility. [cf Wilfrid Owen’s poem of that name!]
Obviously I was very moved by this novel. As one of the Sixties’ generation whose name did NOT come out in the dastardly National Service ballot for Vietnam, I can only be forever grateful. I can understand why Marlantes took so long to fashion his novel – and why so many veterans I know “ Just don’t want to talk about it”. And yet we still send our young men off to war – with so little debate! [How many times did we hear Iraq or Afghanistan mentioned in the recent election campaign, at a time when our soldiers are being wounded and are dying at a rate not seen since 1972?]
A very good American novelist Tim O’Brien wrote in ‘The Things They Carried’: “A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe”. And in an excellent review of “Matterhorn”, Kevin Rabelais wrote: “It’s the kind of novel that reminds us why we read and why, as readers, we should remain grateful for whatever changes literature can bestow”. I agree heartily.

Rating: ****+
Allen&Unwin, 2010, 598 pp, rrp $32-99.
Review by: Bernard P. Ryan. [Presenter, “The Blurb”.]

Interviews with Sue Henczel & Fiona Baranoski

Sue Henczel- Manager of Community Engagement & Development & Fiona Baranoski- Information Services Officer, came into to talk to The Blurb about the wonderful things that Geelong Libraries are doing, the services they offer and all the events and programs they are running.
Geelong Regional Libraries are currently in partnership with ‘Gateways’ & ‘St. Laurance’ and working with schools, community organisations and disability services to provide them with access to the library.

Upcoming events include;
-The ‘Open Mind’ Lecture Series, which are designed for discussion and debate on the topic presented;
23rd September- Clean Energy, Presented by Magnus Mansie
7th October- Dementia , Presented by David Hooker
4th November-Resilient Children, Presented by Andrew Fuller

-September School Holidays Program, which has over 30 activities that children can participate in.

-Library Books for Timor-Leste, which is a ‘Trivia Night’ hosted by Brian Nankervis, that will feature auctions and great prizes. All money raised through this event will be sent to libraries in Timor-Leste for the purchase of library and literacy materials and to the district of Viqueque to support the development of library and education programs.

-Free Twilight Saga and Trivia Night for teens held on the 18th September at the Deakin University Waterfront Campus.

Visit the Geelong Libraries Website for more details and to register for events:

Sue and Fiona talked to us about the introduction of Safari E-books into the library which offers online books downloadable from home but borrowed for a specified about of time. All users will need is a home computer and an MP3 device to download to.

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