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→
Peter Corris’ latest Cliff Hardy, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW is the last Cliff Hardy.
This amounts to a win, lose and draw situation for the legion of Cliff Hardy fans.
It’s a win because it’s a neat, clean, shaved and sober story, and Corris doesn’t care who knows it. Like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW begins with Cliff Hardy being hired by a lucre lousy dad, Gerard Fonteyn, to investigate the disappearance of his daughter, Juliana, a statuesque fourteen year old vanished from their Vaucluse waterfront last December. Continue reading PETER CORRIS FAREWELLS CLIFF HARDY WITH ‘WIN, LOSE OR DRAW’→
Holly Throsby’s debut novel, GOODWOOD, is a lyrical, rolling ballad of a small country town hit with a one/two punch of grief and of a one/two punch of burgeoning sexuality for the story’s narrator, seventeen year old, Jean Brown.
Set in 1992, the disappearance of two locals from the small town of Goodwood are harbingers of the disappearance of an era, before mandatory mobile phone use, social media and maniac serial killers burying backpackers in Belanglo.
Featured photo – Melbourne author and television producer Michelle Wyatt.
There’s no denying that Alzheimer’s is joked about. Even those most prone to this devastating disease, the elderly, self deprecatingly refer to to it as Oldtimer’s. It may be a way of denial that this insidious syndrome is much more formidable than mere forgetfulness.
In her forthright memoir of dealing with her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s, NOT RIGHT IN THE HEAD, Michelle Wyatt admits that it’s a tough topic to write about with any kind of lightheartedness, yet she succeeds wonderfully in getting the balance right.
That balance comes from a sharing of a family headed up by the seemingly indefatigable Dad, Frank, to whom the book is dedicated. As much as Michelle and her siblings rallied to deal with their mother’s dementia, it was Dad who led the charge, a living manifestation of the marriage vow “in sickness and in health.” Continue reading NOT RIGHT IN THE HEAD BY MICHELLE WYATT→
Want a story that leaps off the page? Leap into LEAP.
With a narrative that has all the agility, grace and momentum of parkour, Myfanwy Jones’ novel is leaps and bounds ahead of the pack in recent published fiction.
LEAP embodies and ennobles no less the great themes of love, loss, grieving and coping, in a splendid story of Joe, a young Melbourne man dream dashed and guilt bashed by the death of his beloved, Jen, and of Elise, mother of the beloved Jen, devastated by the death of her daughter and the dying of her marriage. Continue reading Myfanwy Jones’ new novel LEAP→
The fortieth book in the Cliff Hardy canon, GUN CONTROL, is sure as a sawn off shottie, powerful and compact.
Impossible to imagine the Australian crime thriller landscape without Cliff Hardy – Peter Corris’ first book, The Dying Trade, laying the foundations of a series that has matured and manifested a character that not only walks the mean streets of Sydney and environs, but makes commentary on the political and social morass of the day.
Cold cases don’t come much hotter than THE BURNING ROOM, the latest Michael Connelly thriller featuring the remarkable LAPD detective, Harry Bosch.
Orlando Merced, a mariachi player, was gunned down a decade ago, but survived, albeit crippled and disfigured. The bullet could not be removed at the time of the shooting as it had lodged irretrievably in his spine.
At the beginning of the novel, Merced has eventually died, and his corpse is splayed on the medical examiners table. The bullet is finally retrieved and the verdict of the autopsy is that the Merced was murdered, taking ten years to terminate, the projectile being the prime cause of his death.
Accompanied by his new Spanish speaking partner, Lucia Soto, Bosch embarks on a fresh investigation of the incident, sifting through the silt of initial reports, fading memories, and vanished witnesses. It becomes as much an investigation into the original process as it is an inquiry of a homicide. Continue reading The Burning Room→
Considering Molly Meldrum’s meandering and stumbling interview style, it seems a minor miracle that he lasted on Countdown for so long (thirteen years, from 1974 to 1987). Journalist Jennifer Byrne famously described Meldrum as a ‘truly awful’ interviewer. Others described Countdown as ‘the ultimate squirm tv’ (Deborah Conway). Still, he has been recognised for his contributions to Australian music over the years, from his earliest days at Go-Set rock magazine in 1966.
Though Meldrum had Jeff Jenkins help on this project, the story is told in Meldrum’s voice. It is a very funny, anecdote laden book with all of Meldrum’s most famous interviews and celebrity stoushes, though he is very quick to kiss and make up. Meldrum’s take on Elton John’s 1984 Sydney wedding to Renate Blauel? Elton simply wanted to knock Michael Jackson from the headlines. (Jackson’s hair had accidentally been set on fire while filming a Pepsi ad two weeks earlier). In an ironic twist, when Jackson toured Sydney more than a decade later he married the pregnant Deborah Rowe here. Sydney seemed, for a while at least, to be the place for the famous and sexually confused to tie the knot. Continue reading Molly Tells, Um, His Story→
Fifty film luminaries are asked the question, “What do you love about the movies?” in the handsome and must have (if you love movies) tome, WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MOVIES (Faber and Faber).
From fifty famed film professionals we get a vast and varied response, although some of their thoughts are shared and the response is shadowed by the experience of the film and the venue or platform in which it is experienced.
A film is a film is a film, but how you see it can make a large difference. Before our new digital age where you can watch product on any device, it was either the cinema or television. And don’t forget the drive-in, where some films actually do play better, more favourably.
First of the rank of respondents is Francis Ford Coppola, the godhead of 70s cinema, who reckons movies are the most diverse and complete art form, that uses everything – music, emotion, images, writing and structure. “A divine collection of all human inspiration and art forms.”
And Francis speculates what kind of movies people from the past, like Goethe, would make.
Francis’ ex son in law, Spike Jonze, director of Her and Being John Malkovich among others, talks about “making something that I can just fall into. You’re just consumed with it.”
He cites the work of Michel Gondry as fitting that category.
Gondry likes the fact that you can watch a movie and then talk about a movie,– a collective dream state and perhaps a shared chair in the collective psychoanalyst’s office.
Alexander Payne, the film maker who has given us Nebraska, Sideways, About Shmidt, and other deadpan delights, declares that we are so lucky to have lived in an era where cinema exists.
“It’s a way of conquering death. You can capture somebody alive and refer to them for the rest of time….and then there’s the unconscious aspect to it; we love movies because of their relationship to dreams.”
William Friedkin, director of the classics The French Connection and The Exorcist, talks about the one ton pencil, which is, “a vast crew of people to whom you must communicate and express your ideas and the images in your mind and the way they move and combine.”
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MOVIES is dedicated to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who contributed to the book shortly before his untimely and tragic death, and makes a case for the difference between theatre and cinema, two forms in which he was so gifted in.
From Almodovar to Wasikowska, Aronofsky to Walter Murch, WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MOVIES is an engrossing, entertaining and enlightening book about this great art form of the past century.
Not only is it packed with insights from its esteemed subjects but has intriguing comments on the subjects by the contributors of Little White Lies magazine.
No book on movies would be complete without a pictorial aspect and WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MOVIES comes with a portrait of each subject, each and every one worth the purchase price of this exquisite and indispensable book for anyone who has ever pondered the question, what I love about movies?
Worth buying multiple copies – one for your library and others for the perfect film buff gift.
Not known for towing the line, THE INDEPENDENT MEMBER FOR LYNE is Rob Oakeshott’s plain titled memoir of a political career that has straddled state and federal arenas and proves a policy wonk with integrity may constantly get his arse kicked butnever loses face.
It begins on polling day in the 2010 federal election when voters delivered a hung parliament and triggered seventeen days of negotiations between the Labor Party, the coalition, and four independents – Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie- the outcome of which would determine who would govern Australia for the next three years.
According to Oakeshott the wooing by Gillard and Abbott was diametrically opposed.
‘There are two times in life. There is now and there is too late.’
Do echoes the sentiments and philosophy of his father with whom he has conflicting emotions, and who abandoned him at a young age.
THE HAPPIEST REFUGEE is a memoir written with pathos and humour. It is also full of insight and portrays Anh’s struggles as he and his extended family flee from the turmoil of his homeland Vietnam on an overcrowded boat to pursue a better life in Australia. Do faces perils at sea from pirates to starvation.
THE STALKING OF JULIA GILLARD by Kerry-Anne Walsh published by Allen & Unwin just before Ms. Gillard’s fall from office is no less impactful now that we have a change of regime, indeed, its insights are perhaps even more relevant as we gird our loins for electile dysfunction in the coming months.
Walsh wails that “Political journalism is now a game of Gotcha – a hunt for that hint of weakness, the slight intonation or nuancing of words that might indicate something isn’t kosher. It’s a witch-hunt out of control, where the slightest stumble is magnified to ridiculous proportions, often into stories of national status, when they’re in fact based on fluff. Struggling for survival and relevance, we as a profession of political journalists and commentators have collectively debased our craft to the lowest common denominator- writing articles confected out of barrel scrapings and hectoring. In such stories, the public interest doesn’t figure”.
Walsh defends Gillard’s gumption, that despite the government’s wafer thin margin, the parliament was remarkably stable; “but it’s depicted as though we are living through the last days of Rome. Gillard implemented reforms and parliament has passed a record amount of legislation – around 180 bills – but the press talks endlessly of a government close to collapse”.
Walsh is best when she sticks to the facts and is no great shakes as a soothsayer – she was right about the blokes Swan, Garrett and Emerson- they went the way of Gillard, but she was wide of the mark when she predicted the sisterhood of Wong, Plibersek and Macklin would fall on their sword.
Right or wrong, Kevin Rudd is the incarnation of Richo’s “Whatever it takes.”
THE STALKING OF JULIA GILLARD is compulsory reading that puts the past three years into perspective and may have a bearing on how the electorate will respond to install a government that will preside over the next four.