Books

SHERLOCK HOLMES THE AUSTRALIAN CASEBOOK-EDITED BY CHRIS SEQUEIRA

A most enjoyable collection of Australian Sherlockian stories as edited and collected by Christopher Sequiera who is renowned internationally for his Holmes-related writings.

Sequiera’s published work includes poetry, prose, and comic-book scripts, including Pulse of Darkness, Rattlebone: The Pulp-Faced Detective and The Borderlander.
It is a selection from both established and emerging writers (better known names include Meg Keneally, Kerry Greenwood and Lucy Sussex).

Other writers include Kaaron Warren, , L.J.M. Owen, T.S.P. Sweeney, J. Scherpenhuizen, Will Schaefer, Robert Veld, Doug Elliott, Philip Cornell, Raymond Gates, Jason Franks, Narrelle M. Harris and Steve Cameron).

The writers imagine the famous detective duo in Australia in 1890, and visiting various locales in all the States and Territories from the outback desert, bush and city . It is not presented in chronological order per se. Continue reading SHERLOCK HOLMES THE AUSTRALIAN CASEBOOK-EDITED BY CHRIS SEQUEIRA

CHRISTOPHER FOWLER : THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS

A treasure map that is, in and of itself, a treasure trove, THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS is a resurrectionist text of literary loot too long buried.

Christopher Fowler has given us a literary atlas which empowers us to become a biblio Indiana Jones, a raider of the lost archive.
THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS is “99 stories and a dozen essays about the men and women who reached for the moon, and found that it wouldn’t always be there.”

Fowler’s investigations into forgotten authors found that writers can be ubiquitous, influential and massively successful only to disappear within their own lifetimes.  So he has donned his fedora and cracked his whip and become a tome raider, unearthing writers who deservedly need resurrection and restoration into the imaginative landscape.

Romancing the tome, Fowler discovers authors who have inspired astute adaptors like Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney, been frightful frauds and fakes, or been too utterly human as to being monstrous and behaving shabbily even when their prose and plotting seems heaven sent. Authors who write like angels and behave like devils.

A Booker Award, you would think, would guarantee posterity, but, alas, prize winning is as ephemeral and inconstant as the wind when it comes to lasting fame.

Most of the authors are novelists, whose own lives would make a great novel. Who would of that that many shared a predilection of being church organists!

Among the profundity of prose princes and princesses, so pleased to see superb dramatists included, to whit, the Peters, Nichols and Barnes. Plays become ephemeral if they fail to enter repertoires. The shock of their experience fades and only the scripts remain.

Reading the scripts of both Nichols and Barnes reignites the shock.
Peter Barnes was one of the great proponents of anti naturalism, a dazzling response to the dreary kitchen sinkism of the fifties. At a time when Monty Python was reconfiguring comedy, Peter Barnes and Peter Nichols started incorporating surrealism, disjunction and Pirandello-esque antics into their works.

Arguably, Barnes masterpiece is The Ruling Class, famously filmed with Peter O’Toole as the mad earl and his identification with Christ. His screen writing credits include the Tony Curtis/George C. Scott starrer, Not With My Wife, You Don’t and Enchanted April, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

Peter Nichols plays were robust and cinematic – several were filmed- but he didnt go into the theatrical repertoire as much as his less demanding peers and consequently disappeared. Happily, Privates on Parade and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg have had recent revivals, but a full rehabilitation into the theatrical pantheon hasn’t quite happened yet, which is a shame, as theatre needs his angry, daring humanity more than ever.

Forgotten, maybe, but not gone, all these authors are in print somewhere, either in new editions or old ones, in shops and sheds or goodness knows where.

THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS is a self help book for readers. Purchase it and proceed to have it guide you in perusing the shelves and stacks of second hand bookshops like Elizabeth’s in Newtown and Grand Days in Kings Cross.

THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN AUTHORS by Christopher Fowler is published by Riverrun

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH : ANOTHER ‘GEM’ FROM MICHAEL CONNELLY


If there are two kinds of truth in the realm of detective fiction, both kinds verify Michael Connelly as one of the pre-eminent practitioners of the genre in modern times.

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH is his latest novel, the twentieth to star his stalwart sleuth, Harry Bosch.

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH twines two kinds of stories, one concerning a current case centring on a pharmaceutical conspiracy, the other a devious campaign from a death row rapist murderer who claims Harry framed him thirty years ago.

This odious smear causes Harry Bosch to ruminate on veritas:  “He knew there were two kinds of truth in this world. The truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one’s life and mission. And the other, malleable truth of politicians, charlatans, corrupt lawyers, and their clients, bent and moulded to serve whatever purpose was at hand.” Continue reading TWO KINDS OF TRUTH : ANOTHER ‘GEM’ FROM MICHAEL CONNELLY

DAME BERYL GREY : FOR THE LOVE OF DANCE

Celebrating Dame Beryl’s 90th birthday , this fascinating book was recently released by Oberon Books. It blends the story of twentieth century English ballet told from the point of view of one of its leaders and person memoir. Dame Beryl uses her extensive diaries as a base and also acknowledges the assistance of archivist Jane Pritchard .

Dame Beryl’s life is defined by her love of dance. Both as a ballerina and an Artistic Director she helped make British ballet the world renowned force it is today. Knowing and working with virtually everyone in the dance world, she reveals fascinating insights into the people, characters, and institutions that made up world dance in the 20th century.

Dame Beryl records vividly her relationship with Dame Ninette de Valois, (Madam’s mood changes and temper), and what it was like to work with Wilfred Stiff, John Gilpin and others.

We learn how she managed to navigate the tricky change from ballerina to administrator and leader of a major ballet company. Continue reading DAME BERYL GREY : FOR THE LOVE OF DANCE

The Lost Pages – The Debut Novel by Melbourne writer Marija Peričić

The year is 1908 in the city of Prague. You’ve written your first book. Everyone wants to be near you, touch you, and hear what you the learned writer has to say. Maybe you do have something worthwhile to impart, your literary opinion is in demand and many would-be authors vie for your attention. Your confidence grows as your fame increases, until a handsome, brilliant stranger befriends you, rivalling your talent and self-assurance. That’s when doubt begins to creep in.

Winner of The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award 2017, the debut novel of Melbourne author Marija Peričić is an intriguing interpretation of the relationship of Max Brod and Franz Kafka. THE LOST PAGES  traces the strange and often fractious relationship between mentor (Max Brod) and protégé (Franz Kafka), where love, rivalry, jealousy and paranoia spiral into madness. Continue reading The Lost Pages – The Debut Novel by Melbourne writer Marija Peričić

ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES : STEVE BISLEY’S CAPTIVATING NEW MEMOIR

There’s no Bisley like Steve Bisley, like no Bisley I know.

Missing his first book, Stillways, an oversight I am now committed to correcting, his latest memoir, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES struck me like a rough diamond bullet of high calibre, cut into a quality carat.

Bisley’s prose can turn on a pin into poetry, not the flowery, floury fluff of doggerel but the flinty, truthful eloquence that comes from a life lived with words, working words, interpreting intent, lifting language from the page onto the stage or screen.

Lively, innovative, inventive and reflective, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES is filtered through the sieve of memory reinforced by reservoirs of imagination.

From the sweet smell of soot and cinders that accompanied his journey from the family property, Stillways, to the big smoke of Sydney in 1967 to the very present now fifty years later, ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES is a journey of professional combustion and personal conflagration. Continue reading ALL THE BURNING BRIDGES : STEVE BISLEY’S CAPTIVATING NEW MEMOIR

AREK SINANIAN : A CLIMATE FOR DENIAL

‘This thought provoking book shines a light on a range of reasons why people don’t appreciate the urgency of the changes required.’ – John Connor, CEO, The Climate Institute.

This is a deceptively small and light book that asks huge questions about climate change and helps if necessary in opening considered discussions about this extremely important issue.

The book asks why is it that despite overwhelming evidence and fundamental scientific principles, some people still don’t accept that climate change is real and that human activity is contributing to it?! Continue reading AREK SINANIAN : A CLIMATE FOR DENIAL

THE LIST : THE DEBUT NOVEL BY MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

Like a brick through a plate glass window, Michael Brissenden’s debut novel, THE LIST, grabs attention, raises the heartbeat, and showers an all encompassing thriller in shards of intrigue, tension and sharp wit.
Sifting through those shards, the shrapnel of evidence, clues, markers and pointers is primarily the job of the Australian Federal Police’s K Block, a unit doing whatever it takes to to stop terrorist attacks on home soil.

The pebble that starts the ripple, the murder and mutilation of young Muslim men on the Terror Watchlist, soon becomes a stone around the neck of investigators. They know it’s a message, but from whom and about what? Is it a serial revenge spree perpetrated by a rogue agent or a harbinger of a greater horror to come? Continue reading THE LIST : THE DEBUT NOVEL BY MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

THE MUMMY BLOGGERS BY HOLLY WAINWRIGHT

Featured photo – Author Holly Wainwright.

If you like your novels sugar coated then read the MUMMY BLOGGERS by Holly Wainwright. Wainwright is the head of entertainment at Mamamia Women’s Network. She is a journalist, writer, editor, podcaster and working mother of two.

The premise of the Mummy Bloggers is simple enough. Three very different mothers devise and hatch plans and strategies in on-line warfare to vie for Blogger of the year at the Blog-aahs awards. There is plenty of drama and deception along the way.  Competition is fierce. It begs the question, at what lengths will some people go to be successful while betraying the public in the process? It highlights the fact that many ordinary people want their day in the spotlight and their fifteen minutes of fame.

The mothers are all deeply flawed individuals who want to measure up to society’s expectations of being high achievers and self-made celebrities. Continue reading THE MUMMY BLOGGERS BY HOLLY WAINWRIGHT

SYDNEY JEWISH WRITERS FESTIVAL 26th and 27th August @ WAVERLEY LIBRARY

The Shalom/Sydney Jewish Writers Festival takes place at Waverley Library in Bondi Junction on 26-27 August 2017.

This year’s guests include Man Booker Prize-nominated novelist Rachel Seiffert in conversation with Australian director Cate Shortland on telling dark stories – in words and on film.

On opening night, Israeli academic, commentator and critic of the occupation of disputed territory Gadi Taub will be debating ‘Israel: From Inside and Out’ with pro-Israel commentator Alexander Ryvchin. The retelling of Holocaust stories – across generations and media – comes under the spotlight with Melbourne musician and writer Bram Presser, head of book publisher Scribe, Henry Rosenbloom and UNSW academic and documentary maker Su Goldfish. Elsewhere in the eclectic program, Mia Freedman, John Safran, Geraldine Doogue, Caroline Baum and many others discuss topics of interest to the Jewish community and beyond.

“Just as you don’t need to be French to enjoy the French Film Festival, you don’t need to be Jewish to enjoy SJWF,” says Festival Director Justine Saidman. “Jewish wisdom teaches that books are more precious than gold and should be treated as companions, their authors as guides. We hope that everyone who attends our Festival this year will be challenged, inspired and invigorated by our offering.”

For more about Sydney Jewish Writers Festival 2017, visit http://www.shalom.edu.au
Find us on: YouTube | Facebook

UNCLE DYSFUNCTIONAL : UNCOMPROMISING ANSWERS TO LIFE’S MOST PAINFUL PROBLEMS

“In the lacunae of language men and women understand different things about personal boundaries. What men call privacy, women know as secrecy. For men, privacy means not being told stuff that would hurt. For women, secrecy is having stuff go on behind your back.”

This is just a snippet in the well of wisdom that is UNCLE DYSFUNTIONAL, a collection from Esquire’s advice columnist, the late, great, acerbic abolisher of bosh, A A Gill.

Unhaltingly hilarious and unfalteringly funny, unflinchingly unflattering to the foolish followers of the fashion of political correctness, Gill is more likely to sneer and scorn as smile and sympathise, but his scathing analyses of what ails modern humankind is sublimely sage. Continue reading UNCLE DYSFUNCTIONAL : UNCOMPROMISING ANSWERS TO LIFE’S MOST PAINFUL PROBLEMS

THE LATE SHOW : MICHAEL CONNELLY’S LATEST THRILLER

The Late Show is LAPD parlance for the night shift and it’s been appropriated as the title of Michael Connelly’s latest thriller.

Eschewing Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller his seemingly perennial serial protagonists, Connelly has created a new lead character, Renee Ballard, an Hawaiian transplant pulling the late show out of Hollywood.

THE LATE SHOW is a slow burn of a page turner, a police procedural that sees Ballard pick up a trio of cases she wants no part of but cannot bear to part with.

The first of the three appears to be a benign case of credit card theft. But it brilliantly builds the base of Ballard’s philosophical foundation of seeking justice for a victim no matter the felony, whether it’s petty theft or first degree murder. Continue reading THE LATE SHOW : MICHAEL CONNELLY’S LATEST THRILLER

PINA BAUSCH : THE FIRST BIOGRAPHY OF ONE OF THE LEGENDS OF DANCE

“ Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost …“

Marion Meyer’s book PINA BAUSCH : THE BIOGRAPHY  is the first biography of the legendary dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch to be published in English.

Pina (short for Phillipina) Bausch ranks among the most influential performers and choreographers of the twentieth century, regarded as a leading influence in the field of modern dance from the 1970s until her death in 2009.

Born in Solingen Bausch’s parents were hotel owners and her career began at a very young age performing for the hotel visitors. At age 15, Bausch was accepted into the Folkwangschule (Folkwang Academy directed by the highly influential Kurt Jooss. Bausch eventually joined Jooss’ Folkwang-Ballett (Folkwang Ballet) after a stint in America on a scholarship and ended up becoming artistic director in 1969.  Continue reading PINA BAUSCH : THE FIRST BIOGRAPHY OF ONE OF THE LEGENDS OF DANCE

THE DARK LAKE : MELBOURNE AUTHOR SARAH BAILEY’S DEBUT NOVEL

Featured pic. Author Sarah Bailey.

These violent delights have violent ends says Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet.

He loved a good warning to set the scene. Perhaps these days he’d be writing crime fiction sensations like THE DARK LAKE, the debut novel from Melbourne based author, Sarah Bailey.

Bailey has harnessed her tale of regional town homicide to the work horse of Shakespeare, and of Romeo & Juliet in particular, complete with teenage suicide, parental displeasure, and a victim called Rosalind.

When the body of high school drama teacher, Rosalind Ryan, is found in the lake the morning after the triumphant opening night of her student’s production of Romeo & Juliet, ancient grudge breaks to new mutiny, as local cop, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, uncovers a ‘storm’ of Shakespeare like dimension.

Woodstock was a contemporary of Ryan and vied for the attention and affections of the same boy at school. That boy’s much younger brother is now Ryan’s star student, cast as Romeo in her brash, bold and brilliant re imagining of the classic tale of star crossed lovers. Continue reading THE DARK LAKE : MELBOURNE AUTHOR SARAH BAILEY’S DEBUT NOVEL

I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD : A FEROCIOUSLY FUNNY SATIRE OF THE WORLD OF FASHION

Featured image- Pic of author by Dennis Drenner.

A fission and fusion of fashion and crime fiction, Barbara Bourland’s I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD is a ferociously funny satire of the gloss and goss industry.

Rip the dust jacket from the binding and wear it with pride, you’ll want to devour this delicious banquet of a book in one sitting, gutsing the glorious barbs and bon mots, characters and situations.

Plot thickens, narrative ripens under the impressive prose of Ms Bourland, with this scathing, coruscating and laugh out loud novel. Continue reading I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD : A FEROCIOUSLY FUNNY SATIRE OF THE WORLD OF FASHION

SPEAKING OUT : TARA MOSS’ CALL FOR WOMEN TO EMPOWER THEMSELVES

Featured photo – Tara Moss signing copies of her book at North Sydney’s Stanton Library. All photos by Ben Apfelbaum.

Model, crime author and public speaker Tara Moss’ empowering and enlightening book SPEAKING OUT, aimed at inspiring girls and women, delivers on many levels. And it begs the question, why aren’t there more books written on this subject?!

In Moss’s forward she says, “Having a voice is part of what makes us human…Language connects us. Our voices connect us. When we are silent or unheard our ideals and perspectives, our needs, our pain and our struggles remain unknown or unacknowledged and for this reason unchanged.”

Moss continues with this line of thought- she “examines the challenges facing women and girls – the external obstacles of silencing, dismissals, bullying and threats of violence, and the internal challenges of crises of confidence…”

Moss focuses on the inequality and the abuse women contend with and suffer from with particular mention and emphasis at the hands of the internet where, “technology is used to shame, bully and brutalise.” Continue reading SPEAKING OUT : TARA MOSS’ CALL FOR WOMEN TO EMPOWER THEMSELVES

‘FIFTY’ BY MAGGY TONKIN CHARTS THE HISTORY OF THE AUSTRALIAN DANCE THEATRE

This beautifully presented book will be treasured by contemporary dance lovers. Wakefield Press yet again have brought us a stunning medium to large sized coffee table book, in this case the history of Australian Dance Theatre, informatively, eloquently written and with superb photos.

The publication features forwards by both the current Chairman Kim Boehm and Robyn Archer, an excellent index at the back is included, and there is also a handy listing of the various dancers who performed under each of the artistic directors.  The writer, Maggy Tonkin, is a leading writer on dance who resides in Adelaide .

Considered radical, daring and new, Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) is Australia’s oldest continuously running contemporary dance company. Celebrating half a century of innovation in dance performance, FIFTY blends archival research, interviews and magnificent photos to take us from its founding by Elizabeth Cameron Dalman through to the exciting performances that are taking place nowunder the current Artistic Director Garry Stewart.

ADT’s tumultuous history is divided into seven chapters (each of the artistic directors reigns) with a striking portrait of each. The book fascinatingly follows the sometimes quite different paths ADT has taken under the successive artistic direction of Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, Jonathan Taylor, Lenny Westerdijk and Anthony Steel, Leigh Warren, Meryl Tankard, Bill Pengelly and Garry Stewart. Continue reading ‘FIFTY’ BY MAGGY TONKIN CHARTS THE HISTORY OF THE AUSTRALIAN DANCE THEATRE

LONNIE’S LAMENT : A NEW BOOK OF POETRY BY KEN BOLTON

LONNIE’S LAMENT,  the latest collection of poems by Ken Bolton, was recently published by Wakefield Press. Bolton has been a major figure in the Australian poetry and experimental writing scene for decades.  Whilst he says that he writes ‘to keep awake, and amused’, this latest collection is yet another reminder of how wonderful a writer he is.  

This rather small and slim book is in four sections. Most are new poems, some have been published in other collections before. They are incisively written often as stream of consciousness poems.

The pieces are lyrical, thoughtful,  dreamily associative and easily distracting. Bolton reflects on life in ‘difficult times’ and tries to capture how recognize the feeling of changing from one era to another, describing it as being like, ‘a history of the vanishing present’. The poems explore how we define ourselves and how we think we are perceived by others.

There is a great use of the senses in his . Some of the poems are short – only a few lines – others are several pages in length. There are many references to other poets, art, artists, films and books. Bolton’s poems question the meaning and purpose of life and death.

Bolton’s poems with their loose rhythms and sudden shifts jump fluidly between Europe and Australia – mainly Sydney and Adelaide- and there is repeated mention of a favourite Greek restaurant Bolton used to frequent.

The book’s first section consists of three poems.  The opening extended poem 2/12/08A Poem for Philip Whalen meditates not just on Whalen and his work but on Bolton’s father’s World War 2 service. There are references to many artists including Grace Cossington-Smith, the Bauhaus, Rembrandt, Kirchner, and Apollinaire.

 Life is a series of short couplets over several pages reflecting on the brevity of life, the passing of time and the passing of important loves in Bolton’s life.

The Funnies uses comics as a springboard for social comment and analysis.

The book’s second section is entitled September Poems and comprises thirteen poems. Poems range from The Palm , where the exploding burst of fronds and the Ent- like ‘ tree-ness’ of the palm is captured to The Blues which is a meditation on inspiration and travel. Geography is visually and aurally sharp and evocative.

Rooftop Apartment is written with a painter’s eyes and love of detail. West Hampstead captures the feelings brought up when Australians catch up far from home.

The third section consists of five poems. New Way of Worrying is a stream of consciousness poem – should he be worrying about Life? Old friends he hasn’t seen for ages? He observes other people and speculates about what they are worrying about.

It also captures other people he is observing and their possible worries.

Train Tripping has plenty of Australian references and is about eavesdropping on people’s conversations.

September Song is about the writing of a poem with dreams of giving a lecture on poetry.

What’s Best distills images of a flower and the moon. or is a streetlight?, interspersed with reflections on his partner Cath’s writing.

The final section – All New Tunes – opens with Spirits – which jumps between Sydney and Surfers Paradise and Bolton’s favourite Greek restaurant. Drink and the muse are invoked as are the spirits of old friends.

Maybe For You twists standard expectations of gender and identity and looks at ways of reading and comprehending a poem. There are also many musical references too.

30:11;12 concerns stylistic decisions in Adelaide and Fewer Pages is another exuberant yet thoughtful riff on reading, art and dogs.

You would be able to read this book in one sitting but my recommendation is to read/savour only a few poems at  a time, and then have the pleasure of returning to the book at a later time and having another very enjoyable session.

Publisher – Wakefield Press

Category –  Literature – Poetry

Format Paperback

Size 210 x 148 mm

ISBN 9781743054727

Extent 112 pages

Released March 2017

RRP- $22.95.

http://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1359

MARTIN SHARP, HIS LIFE AND TIMES BY JOYCE MORGAN

This is a splendid, richly detailed biography of the iconic Australian artist Martin Sharp. He was the co-founder and principal cartoonist at Oz magazine, a song-writing partner to Eric Clapton, the  producer of many famous pop, and much more.

Joyce Morgan, former Sydney Morning Herald  arts editor and journalist, interviewed artist Martin Sharp frequently and intensively during the last decade of his life and unearthed a  fascinating, complex man – from his involvement with Tiny Tim and Luna Park to Arthur Stace’s Eternity landmark scrawl, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the Sydney Opera House.

Morgan also uncovers information about Sharp’s part in architect Jorn Utzon’s secret departure from Australia in 1966 and his eventual re-connection with the Sydney Opera House. Continue reading MARTIN SHARP, HIS LIFE AND TIMES BY JOYCE MORGAN

ANDREW RIEMER : BETWEEN THE FISH AND THE MUDCAKE

 

It was more than a bit of a challenge when I was requested to write  a review of a book written by an eminent and esteemed critic, academic, best selling author and a person who is the Sydney Morning Herald chief book reviewer. The gentleman is Andrew Riemer, the book Between The Fish and The Mudcake.

In his book, Riemer reminiscences about well known literary figures; there are food references and destinations mentioned. It is part memoir, history lesson, political piece, travelogue and social commentary.

Between the Fish and the Mudcake begins by discussing Patrick White whom he meets at a dinner party in Sydney in 1966 and who undergoes Riemer’s astute character observations  and analysis of his personality. “We see him driven into precisely the taciturn hostility, thinly disguised beneath a veneer of politeness…” Continue reading ANDREW RIEMER : BETWEEN THE FISH AND THE MUDCAKE

THE GIRL BEFORE : A DEBUT NOVEL BY J.P. DELANEY

A dream house becomes a nightmare dwelling in J P Delaney’s uber impressive debut novel, THE GIRL BEFORE.

Stick Girl in the title these days and you’re assured a bestseller it seems, but THE GIRL BEFORE is bound to sweep away Gone, Girl and Girl on a Train on equal merit and not just marketing spin.

“Sometimes I have a sense that this house- our relationship in it, with it, with each other -is like a palimpsest or pentimento, that however much we try to over paint Emma Matthews, she keeps tiptoeing back: a faint image, an enigmatic smile, stealing its way into the corner of the frame.” Continue reading THE GIRL BEFORE : A DEBUT NOVEL BY J.P. DELANEY

DIARY OF A VOLUNTEER : SYDNEY WRITER’S FESTIVAL

Any new experience can be a bit scary and there were a lot of reassured volunteers today when Misty, Sydney Writer’s Festival Volunteer Manager looked across the rows of eager newbies and said. “You will probably be petrified when you arrive at the Vollies Green Room for the first time. Don’t worry. We’ll spot you!” And that’s my takeaway from today’s Volunteer Orientation, we are in good hands.

Experience tells and as Misty and Ashleigh, the Volunteer Co-coordinator, warmly greeted the hundreds of volunteers as we queued for orientation, they knew our names and what we were slated for. Both the old hands like some of the people around me, and novices like myself and the new queue friend I had just made.

It looked like there were equal numbers of both as we did a show of hands for the more experienced and the excitable new ones. I sort of expected older people for reasons that don’t make any sense when I think about it. We are young and old, able bodied and differently abled. My new intergenerational friend is an aspiring writer and the couple near me voracious readers. And we all seem to be ‘volunteery’ type people. RFS, SES, Red Cross, working with youth, nursing home visitor we all seem to do something and so many people look forward to giving their time on the SWF each year.

Including our team supervisors. 28 of them with 130 combined Festivals between them. As badges were given for 5, 10 years volunteer service up to an impressive 13 years, I was getting that very calming ‘we’ve got you’ vibe. And the training only served to put me even further at ease. Emergency training, weather training, anecdotes to learn from and lots of thank yous and look after yourselfs. And being of a theatrical bent, I especially loved the variety of ways one of our trainers said nearly 30 times. “Don’t go in the water!” It’s not a thing apparently!

There is no secret to how to behave when you are a volunteer. We are united by a willingness and desire to help just as the SWF crowds are united in their love of ideas and their expression. Well behaved too we are told. Our team leaders have encountered most out of norm situations and as hundreds of us were ushered around the site by helpful, friendly, knowledgeable supervisors we got a real time, best practice demonstration.

There’s homework admittedly. We need to know where the toilets are about a thousand times a day. Know what events are on during your shift. Know where the venues are and know the map intimately. Questions continue all the way home on the train if you are still wearing your T-shirt and lanyard we are told.

I will be very excited to report on my first question… hope it’s not too pedestrian. Or too hairy. Either way I am ready to go. First stop: my local library for Sandra Leigh Price and The River Sings.

Sydney Writers Festival is 22-28th May
https://www.swf.org.au/
Twitter: @SydWritersFest
#sydneywritersfestival
Facebook: @SydWritersFest
Instagram: sydwritersfest
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuCZP35tRLm6YfvB9HiS3Vg
iTunes Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/sydney-writers-festival/id985898011?mt=2

 

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN FLORENCE : SIMONETTA CATTANEO

Alyssa Palombo’s book THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN FRANCE strikingly captures the dangerous allure of the bond between artist and muse with delicacy, candour and unforgettable passion.

Palombo is also the author of The Violinist of Venice. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. A recent graduate of Canisius College she holds degrees in English and creative writing. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. She currently resides in Buffalo, New York.

Divided into three sections, the book opens in Genoa where Simonetta Cattaneo was born and lived. She is believed to be the model for some of Sandro Botticelli’s finest paintings, including The Birth of Venus. 

She was married to Marco Vespucci of Florence in 1469 at the age of sixteen and moved there upon her marriage. Even before her betrothal with Marco was official, Simonetta was drawn into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers.

The men of Florence―most notably the rakish, rather sinister Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her even more desirable and fashionable …

Florence, however, does not really agree with Simonetta as she eventually keeps on becoming ill. She suffers from recurring mysterious fevers – it turns out Simonetta unknowingly developed TB.

The book follows Simonetta’s tragically short life as she is wooed by the promise of life in artistic, learned Florence, befriended by the mighty Medici family and then moves in the top echelons of Florentine society, what we would now call the A-list, and is given the mixed blessing of being declared the most beautiful woman in Florence.

Simonetta’s unhappy marriage to Marco is well described. The developments of art, music and culture are also mentioned – Donatello’s David , the works of Fra Filip Lippi the amazing dome at the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, as designed by Brunelleschi.

Simonetta’s story is a poignantly sad one, but also strikingly feminist as she fights to be acknowledged for her sharp mind and education (she is bookish and intelligent with a very inquiring mind) and scorns the attention paid to her because of her astonishing good looks. It is Botticelli who sees past her looks to the curious and thoughtful woman within, and through that relationship with him she is immortalised in some of the most treasured works of the Renaissance .

Breaking all convention, Simonetta agrees to pose for Botticelli leading to the creation of his famous The Birth of Venus. Do the two become lovers?  Or is it a chaste affair following the rules of courtly love of the time?

You will have to read the book to find out. Boticelli asked to be buried at Simonetta Vespucci’s feet, in the Chiesa di San Salvatore di Ognissanti, where he remains to this day, makes this an even more seductive love story.

Though little is known of her real life, this story gathers what facts do exist to build a lyrical , fascinating and compelling narrative that is not just a love story. This is an enchanting book that captivates and makes you want to dash to the Uffizzi Gallery.
IBSN: 9781925481167

  • Format: Trade Paperback
    Pub Date: 26/04/2017
  • Category: Fiction & related items / Historical romance
    Fiction & related items / Historical fiction
  • Imprint: Macmillan Australia
  • Pages: 320
  • Price: $29.99

 

Diary of a Volunteer: Sydney Writers Festival 2017

If the act of reading is necessarily a quiet, solitary activity the opposite can be true of when we share or discuss what we read. This dynamic communality is what draws me every year to the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

Some of the best conversations I have ever had about writing, the perception of writing, even the act of writing have been in queues on cool May afternoons as I wait gratefully to attend an SWF event. Strangers with whom I might disagree, agree, agree to disagree or simply be excited with.

And it appears that I am not the only one who acknowledges the pleasure of choosing from over 300 events each year. Today I did my first shift as an SWF volunteer. One of the hundreds of people who put up their hands to make this iconic Sydney event run smoothly for the solitary love of reading and the vibrant sharing of what we read. Continue reading Diary of a Volunteer: Sydney Writers Festival 2017

CHARLOTTE RAMPLING’S MEMOIR REVEALS WHO SHE IS, SORT OF…

How appropriate that an outfit called Icon Books should publish Charlotte Rampling’s WHO I AM.

Rampling is an undeniable icon of film and popular culture, and her book, co authored by Christophe Bataille, is sure to achieve iconic cache.

The first thing to say about WHO I AM is what it is not.

In the first paragraph, Rampling says, with a laugh, One thing it definitely can’t be is a biography. I’ve tried telling my life story. It doesn’t work…..I don’t open up. Continue reading CHARLOTTE RAMPLING’S MEMOIR REVEALS WHO SHE IS, SORT OF…