Book & Publishing News
* JANE SULLIVAN always writes something interesting in her weekly column in the Saturday “Age”. She noted recently how it is not surprising that ALBERT CAMUS may be back in fashion. His “The Plague” can be purchased in the new ‘cheap’ Penguin edition.
* CALEB’s review from last week of DBC PIERRE”s “Lights Out In Wonderland” should be available on this site by the end of the week.
* PUBLISHERS: we love to hear from ALL publishers, new/old, big/small…especially local. Contact us: send us your books and we will talk about them on the program. I have recently contacted Ballan-based ‘Conner Court’ who are bringing to the public the ideas of such writers as eminent historian [ANU Emeritus Professor] JOHN MOLONY and veteran Rome-based journalist Desmond O’Grady.
*”Strine” is always with us: have you seen all the Gloria Soames out in Wandana Heights? A new edition of “Professor Afferbeck Lauder’s 1970s classic is now available. [Have you ever seen Round John Bergin in any depiction of the Christmas scene?]
* JAMES McNEISH whose “The Crime of Huey Dunstan” I reviewed recently has been lately given the New Zealand PM”s 2010 Award for Literary Achievement – at age 79. [Today’s interview with Maris Morton, is further proof that “age shall not weary” determined novelists!]
This Weeks Review: “A Darker Music”- Maris Morton
I am coming to admire the work our Australian publishers are doing in
encouraging new writers – though I know some of us are still striving to get our work out there to the public. There are fortunately quite a few ‘cottage’ publishers, even in our own region, working hard to help you out. [Please let “The Blurb” know of these so we can publicise them in our “News”: segment at least.] SCRIBE as well as Allen & Unwin, Black Inc., Text and the university presses have given us not only good texts this year, but they are presented so beautifully – which is vital in getting books OFF the shelves and into readers’ hands. Today’s author has been awarded Scribe’s Fiction Prize for this year with her “A Darker Music.”
From the Blurb
“When Mary Lanyon takes on the job of temporary housekeeper at ’Downe’, a famous merino stud farm, she is looking forward to staying in a gracious homestead with the wealthy Hazlitt family. The owner’s wife, Clio, is ill, and Mary’s task is to get the house back in shape in the lead-up to the wedding of the only son and heir, Martin.
When she arrives, however, Mary realises things are not right. Clio rarely ventures from her roo. The House is shabby, redolent of dust and secrets. As a friendship develops between the women, Mary discovers answers to the questions that have puzzled her….”
Maris has developed an interesting plot in her novel and she certainly knows how to write. It all rings true because she has herself lived aspects of the station life she depicts. I was lucky to live for a decade in Western NSW which included two years on a 5000-hectare mixed farm on the Lachlan River in the early 70s. It was amazing how quickly the culture of a ‘farm’ got into one’s consciousness. Constant talk of the weather seasons, prices/markets, stock, workmen…pet lambs, dogs and river levels, agricultural shows, camping out…and so on. The authentic fee Maris creates for life in “The Bush” with its three-dimensional human takes us right inside their lives. Mary and Clio are exceptionally well-drawn: their informal conversations, the day-to-day routine, the barely-spoken feelings each comes to share. Mary – a cosmopolitan, well-educated and sophisticated young woman, learns to be sensitive to the sad realities of Clio’s prisoner-life existence. The “darker music’ of Clio’s life is both a remembered memory and a metaphor for everyone connected to ‘Downe’. It is not a happy place. Some of the best-recalled scenes for me are when Mary escapes to an exquisite stand of wildflowers, her own “music”. The musical motif is used subtly throughout not only to reveal Clio’s inner life then, but to explore the moods and swings of all the characters really.
Not to be pedantic, the minor characters – people associated with the property – are neatly conjured up, though perhaps the husband is perhaps slightly caricatured. I was left wanting to know him better.
This is a very good novel and I am amazed to learn it is Maris’s first published work in this mode.
Maris Morton: “A Darker Music”, SCRIBE, 2010, pp 312, rrp $32
Author Interview: Maris Morton author of “A Darker Music”
The Blurb chatted to Maris Morton author of “A Darker Music” about her writing career, her first novel and inspiration for the story, here is some of what she had to say.
Maris Morton on how “A Darker Music” came about
I’ve always been an avid reader but I have never really had the time or motivation to write. Now being retired and having the time to learn a new skill, which has taken me ten years to grasp, I have started writing five novel’s but this one [A Darker Music] was the first one I have felt confident enough with to give to a publisher.
Maris Morton on the culture of farm life and her experience
I’ve lived in the Southwest where it’s a rich agricultural life and this is where the book is based. I have always enjoyed being in the country and prefer the country life. Country people are rather different and used to solitude.
Maris Morton on the woman’s quest for freedom
Cleo was purely invented, but I heard a story about a farmer’s wife where the idea of being committed to music and loosing it came from. Cleo is not a perfect woman but she does what she has to do.
Mary on the other hand made the life she wanted to have.
Maris Morton on the music motif
I grew up in a house filled with music. My dad played the Spanish guitar and was in an amateur band. Mum was a singer and came from the church and hymn singing background. I also played the piano like most people did.
This Weeks Poem:
“Gifts”- Bruce Dawe
This is a pre-Christmas poem recently published by Bruce Dawe and was released this month.
This week’s tracks included:
-‘Set Fire to the Third Bar’- Snow Patrol featuring Martha Wainwright
-’15 Step’- Radiohead