Books & Writing

THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS : EXQUISITE

I was browsing the Berkoleow’s bookstore in Darlinghurst when I came across a book that I just had to pick up and look at. The title intrigued me. ‘The Museum Of Broken Relationships’.  

I read the introduction by Olinka Vistica. She writes that the genesis of the museum concept came about after the end of her four year love affair with co-editor Drazen Grubisic.

The couple felt bereft and empty. They searched for an object in their home that they could most remember their relationship by. Looking around their room they spotted a little windup toy that they nicknamed ‘Honey Bunny’. It was a toy that when they came home from a busy day saw marching in circles the minute they opened their front door. ‘Honey Bunny’ made up for the pet that they just didn’t get around to having.

This got them to thinking that a lot of couples must have at least one object that, in a way, epitomized their relationship. Then they came up with the idea- what if there could be a repository made to contain memorable objects of love affairs that had come to an end. Their thoughts turned to creating a Museum of Broken Relationships where these objects could be received and housed. It would be good if along with the object the aggrieved lover would write a bit of a back story to the object and the relationship they had been in. Continue reading THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS : EXQUISITE

IT IS THE SEASON FOR BOOK AWARDS

The avant garde poet PiO, who published his first book in 1974, has won a major award. The poet, who changed his name after he fell in love with mathematics, last week won the $15,000 Judith Wright Calanthe Award in the Queensland Literary Awards for Heidi, a. 600 page epic about modern art and the world of the Reeds, Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester and Albert Tucker.

Other winners in the awards included Heartland,  Jo Gorman; fiction Stone Sky Gold Mountain, Miranda Riwoe; non fiction, Olive Cotton, Helen innes; short story award, Lucky Ticket, Joey Bui; David Unaipon award, The Space Between The Paperbark, Jazz Money.

Also presented last week were the New South Wales Premier’s History Awards. The $15,000 Australian prize went to James Dunk for Bedlum at Botany Bay. Other prizes included : general, The Warrior, The Voyager, and the Artist: Three Lives in an Age of Empire, Kate Fullagar; NSW community and regional prize, Surviving New England : A History of Aboriginal Resistance and Resilience Through the First Forty Years of Colonial Apocalype, Callum Richard Clayton-Dixon; young people’s, The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature, Pierre-Jacques Ober, Felicity Coonan and Jules Ober; and the digital prize, Experiment Street, Noelle Janaczewska.

The 2020 shortlist for the Booker Prize is The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga,  Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi, The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, Real Life by Brandon Taylor.

The winner of this year’s Booker Prize will be announced on 17th November, 2020.

 

BETTY: A BLOCK BUSTER BEST SELLER

Redolent of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, BETTY is the kind of compelling storytelling that instills iris burning images, ear-worm prose, indelible characters and an innate sense of time and place.

Born sixth into a family of eight children, Betty is the fruit of a family tree that has grown with rotten roots, broken branches and fungus on the leaves, yet yields shade and cover and the hope of regeneration.

Betty is a storyteller, a gift instilled in her by her father’s oral repertoire of Cherokee myth, legend, lore and imagination, and given fervour by ardent reading. Voraciously devouring the shelves of her local library, she believed that the Great Creator had told the talented scribes to write her a father.

Dad is certainly a fabulous character, a teller of tall tales, parables a plenty, a gardener, herbalist and moonshiner.

“As for my father’s imagination, I believe that God had stepped on Dad’s mind. It was Steinbeck’s fault, he having dropped my father’s mind in the first place, which gave God the opportunity to step on it, leaving behind a small dent and the print of His foot.”

As for Betty’s mum, “My mother was a woman so lovely, mirrors grieved in absence of her.” But her psyche is damaged by incessant early childhood incest, a blight no amount of tender loving care by her husband can fully eradicate.

On one of her siblings, “My sister was just another girl doomed by politics and ancestral texts that say a girl’s destiny is to be wholesome, obedient and quietly attractive, but invisible when need be. Nailed to the cross of her own gender, a girl finds herself between the mother and the prehistoric rib, where there’s little space to be anything other than a daughter who lives alongside sons but is not equal to them. These boys who can howl like tomcats in heat, pawing their way through a feast of flesh, never to be called a slut or a whore like my sister was.”

BETTY is the story of a clan growing up in Breathed, Ohio, a story of anguish but so, too, of love. Betty’s dialogue becomes an insanity that then evolves into a metamorphosis of soul. Risen against all odds, if only to oppose and defy the suffering, she plots tales that commanded herself to survive.

“There are too many enemies in life to be one of yourself, so I decided to refuse hate’s ambition.”

BETTY by Tiffany McDaniel is published by W & N through Hachette

ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 60 YEARS 1960-2020

The Adelaide Festival , or Festival of the Arts as it was originally known , has now been going for an amazing 60 years.

This is a beautiful, large and heavy coffee table book. It is divided into nine ‘chapters’ and is lavishly illustrated throughout with both black and white and colour photos. At the back is a tabulation of sixty years of posters advertising the Festival, then a list of short biographies of the various contributors. It is not an archival, chronological record of the Festival but rather a collection of memories and photos.

The editor, Catherine McKinnon, is an award-winning novelist and playwright. She studied theatre performance and cinema at Flinders University. Her play ‘Tilt’ was selected for the 2010 National Playwriting Festival, and As I Lay Dreaming won the 2010 Mitch Matthews Award. Her short stories, reviews and articles have appeared in Transnational Literature, Text Journal, RealTime, Narrative and the Griffith Review.

McKinnon, along with four other writers, won the Griffith Review Novella 111 Award, 2015, and her novella ‘Will Martin’ was published by Griffith Review in October of that year. Her novel ‘Storyland’ was shortlisted for the 2018 Miles Franklin Award, the Barbara Jefferis Award and the Voss Award.

Contributors (over fifty of them!) range from previous Artistic Directors, performers in the Festival (some have been both) reviewers , lighting designers, publicists and other Adelaide luminaries.

The book looks at the problems of programming a Festival , ticketing the Festival, performing in a Festival and the massive successes , the dangerous accidents and near misses in performance. It also looks at the interconnectivity of people connected to the Festival , and we learn about various productions and their links to the history of Australian Dance Theatre,  the Australian Ballet,  Circus OZ, Bangarra, the Sydney Symphony etc.

Other passages are very personal : We read of Jim Sharman’s extended sojourn with the Festival since 1964 , how Akram Khan was a teenage performer in Brook’s ‘Mahabharata’ and has become Artistic Director of one of the world’s major dance companies , Annabel Crabb driving members of the Frankfurt Ballet to Maslin’s Beach, Rachel Healey being transfixed by Phillipe Genty’s puppets as a child.

In the opera world we learn that several productions as part of the Festival were the first performances of that work in Australia. WOMelaide, Writers Week and Artist’s Week are also part of the memories. There is also an article included by former SA premier Don Dunstan , who was a major supporter of the arts

It is fascinating to see that some events/productions are consistently mentioned as magical experiences – eg the 1980 Water Tunnel , Pina Bausch and her company visiting , Peter Brook’s Mahabharata and the opera Voss to name just a few. The inclusion of indigenous content in the Festival is also examined. The intersections of the various people exemplify how the Festival has become a major nucleus for the arts in South Australia.

The book asks – why Adelaide? Does Adelaide and its Festival have its own distinct personality? Can a performance change your life?

The Festival is both of and for the people – there is a great quote by its founder,Professor John Bishop OBE – to whom the Festival’s aim is to ‘ To do the extraordinary … to make possible that which otherwise would not happen ‘.

As Patrick McDonald says ‘ Diversity, inclusivity and creativity have been the consistent hallmarks of sixty years of Adelaide Festival openings. All that remains to be seen is what future fusions of imagination and technology will bring to its table’ .To quote Barry Kosky ‘ Long may it reverberate and rejoice’.

ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 60 YEARS 1960-2020 is published by Wakefield Press and available at all leading book retailers.
Category
Format Hardback
Size 255 x 255 mm
ISBN 9781743056882
Extent 296 pages

HARDIE GRANT ANNOUNCES THE CREATION OF HARDIE GRANT CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING

Hardie Grant is delighted to announce the creation of Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, after acquiring full ownership of the former joint venture Hardie Grant Egmont.   

The acquisition reinforces Hardie Grant’s focus and investment in the children’s market and will accelerate the international growth of the award-winning children’s publisher as a refreshed, fully owned division of Australia’s largest independent publisher.

Nearly twenty years in the making, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing now boasts some of the biggest and best names in books for young readers, including the best-selling Billie B Brown author Sally Rippin, Australia’s favourite comedian Peter Helliar, and Megan Hess, the globally successful creator of the Claris picture books. With an impressive list of commercially successful, award-winning titles across all categories, and backed by the established international network of the Hardie Grant Publishing group, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing will now move to expand its current offices in Melbourne and Sydney and add presence in London and San Francisco.  Continue reading HARDIE GRANT ANNOUNCES THE CREATION OF HARDIE GRANT CHILDREN’S PUBLISHING

POLY: WHAT A CRACKER!

POLY. What a cracker!

Could POLY, Paul Dalgarno’s polymorphously perverse debut novel, be in pol position for one of the most pleasing reads published in the present pandemic.? Probably.

POLY plots the polyamory of Chris and Sarah Flood, married with two children, who have decided to open up their relationship, after suffering a sojourn in their conjugal life.

Sarah has taken to multi partnership with gusto, Chris less so, although he has started a romantic relationship with Biddy, a polydactyl theatrical who enjoys hugs and humps in equal measure.

Sarah’s flings are trysts of wanton abandon, latex lax, a wayward wind storming her out of domestic doldrums. Chris’s relationship with Biddy takes the more romantic route.
In any case, their relationship remains revolved around their children, and their new life of polyamory presents problems and challenges with rotating parenting. It also creates tensions with friends, acquaintances, and work colleagues.

POLY is polymerous, beginning like an A grade erotic rom-com, a Four Flings and a Fingering, as you were, and ending in thriller mode, an every parents’ nightmare scenario.

Dalgarno is disarmingly adept at depicting his inner city dwellers facing self esteem issues as they confront the twilight of their youth and try to reign in their renegade responsibilities.

Polyamory, as freeing as it may be philosophically, carries its own responsibilities, pitfalls, and compromises, and, as his funny, honest, and nimble narrative illustrates, is never quite free of the pangs of jealousy and rejection.

Erect me don’t reject me is one of Chris’ silent, plaintiff cries to his promiscuous spouse. “She was looking for me but didn’t know it, had to go through the process of elimination with every other man on the planet.”

But then, as Sarah so eloquently opines, “People in glass houses should not throw moss and every cloud has a silver bullet.”

POLY by Paul Dalgarno is published by Ventura Press.

BFI FILM CLASSICS: REJACKETED & REBOOTED

Almost 30 years since its inception, and with 200 titles in print, the BFI’s Film Classics series is relaunching with a fresh new cover approach and new titles. This signals a change of focus, with women, LGBTIQ+, black, Asian, mixed ethnicity and the Global South to be foregrounded in films selected for the series and authors commissioned to write about them.

The BFI and its publishing partner, Bloomsbury, relaunch the series with 20 titles. This comprises three brand new books: Babette’s Feast by philosopher Julian Baggini, Touch of Evil by poet and art critic Richard Deming and Rosemary’s Baby by author and academic Michael Newton.

Seventeen series favourites are also being reissued including: A.L. Kennedy on Powell & Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Camille Paglia on Hitchcock’s The Birds, Ed Guerrero on Spike Lee’s Do the
Right Thing and Marita Sturken’s take on Thelm & Louise.

Reissues include new forewords by their authors highlighting the films’ contemporary relevance to issues such as #MeToo, Brexit,
the rise of Trump and police victimisation of young African Americans.

In addition, in a major cover refresh, each book features
specially commissioned cover artwork by leading illustrators, designers and photographers.

Forthcoming titles in the series include film critic and scholar Rebecca Harrison on The Empire Strikes Back, feminist scholar and advocate
Patricia White writing on Hitchcock’s Rebecca and writer and activist So Mayer on Sally Potter’sOrlando.

Founded in 1992, the BFI Film Classics series grew out of an initiative of the National Film and Television Archive (NFTVA), now known as the BFI National Archive, to build a collection of 360 key films in the history of cinema. Authors published in the book series include Salman Rushdie, Manohla Dargis, Amy Taubin, Simon Callow, Marina Warner, Greil Marcus and Mark Kermode.

BFI FILM CLASSICS are published by Bloomsbury.

https://www.bloomsbury.com/au/superpage/bfi-film-classics/

INTERNATIONAL BAD SYDNEY CRIME WRITERS FESTIVAL

The International Bad Sydney Crime Writers Festival has gone online this year.

It’s your chance to immerse yourself in a virtual 4 day crime festival.

Hear top Scandi noir writers like Jo Nesbe, outstanding UK writer Ann Cleeves, revered US author Don Winslow and more in a crime extravaganza.

Sessions are $10, a Festival pass is only $50.

https://www.badsydney.com/

 

 

NIB LITERARY AWARD 2020 SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED

The shortlist for the 2020 Mark and Evette Moran Literary Award, known as ‘the Nib’, has been announced.

The shortlisted titles are:

  • After the Count: The death of Davey Browne (Stephanie Convery, Viking)
  • Fathoms: The world in the whale (Rebecca Giggs, Scribe)
  • The Deceptions (Suzanne Leal, A&U)
  • Friends and Rivals: Four Great Australian Writers—Barbara Baynton, Ethel Turner, Nettie Palmer, Henry Handel Richardson (Brenda Niall, Text)
  • The Hilton Bombing: Evan Pederick and the Ananda Marga (Imre Salusinszky, MUP)
  • The Stranger Artist: Life at the edge of Kimberley painting (Quentin Sprague, Hardie Grant).

Each shortlisted author receives an Alex Buzo Shortlist Prize of $1000, and voting for the $1000 Nib People’s Choice Prize is open to the public until 1 October. Continue reading NIB LITERARY AWARD 2020 SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED

DIARY WRITING COMING BACK IN VOGUE DURING THE PANDEMIC

Experts from RMIT University say diary-keeping is having a resurgence, as people find it can help them during troubled times, like COVID-19.

Dr Peta Murray, a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at RMIT University, said diary-keeping could also help others.

“We keep hearing these are unprecedented times but it’s largely because none of us on this earth today have a true understanding of what it’s like to live through a pandemic,” she said. Continue reading DIARY WRITING COMING BACK IN VOGUE DURING THE PANDEMIC

REPREHENSIBLE: POLITE HISTORIES OF BAD BEHAVIOUR

Totally reprehensible.

Rats, rascals, and reprobates populate Mikey Robins’ scandalous and salacious new book, REPREHENSIBLE: POLITE HISTORIES OF BAD BEHAVIOUR.

A scavenger hunt of dirty rotten scoundrels through the ages, this compendium of cads, curs, creeps and Comstocks sheds light into the darkest corners of con artistry, where the cheats, frauds, and swindlers lurk.

A whole chapter, Misbehaving Royally, can hardly contain the antics of maniacal monarchs who battled, bribed, and beheaded, sovereign miscreants screwing subjects and peers with wanton abandon.

While Queen Victoria was seldom amused and purportedly covered table legs in case they should solicit impropriety, her Russian sorority, Catherine the Great, flaunted her furniture fetish with chairs featuring fellatio and tables relete with tumescent tossles.

The chapter Wayward Geniuses takes artistic temperament to task as well as scientific arseholery taking a William Tell aim at the apple crowning nob, Isaac Newton.

Titans of literature like H.G. Wells, James Joyce, Jean-Paul Sartre come under scrutiny for philandery, flatulence and phantom crustaceans, while Magellan cops a flagellan for being a one man Corona Virus of Christian evangelism.

Feuds, Fights & Insults is a fascinating chapter on put-downs and come-uppances par excellence, of deadly duels, rank rumours, and that old digger of two graves, revenge.

Popes and presidents, politicians and princes, Pharaohs and Pharisees, all come in for a proper pillocking, with a special place in hubris hell for the pious, prurient and Puritanical, aka hypocrites.

Quick with the quip and astride the aside with tongue in both cheeks, Mikey Robins’ REPREHENSIBLE not only succeeds in uncovering the scurrilous but being ever so entertainingly scholarly. I don’t remember Latin declensions being so much fun!

REPREHENSIBLE by Mikey Robbins is published by Simon & Schuster

SHA’AN D’ANTHES : BANDITS

In Bandits Fern lives in a colourless, lifeless city and has only ever seen trees as pictures in her books. Fern is told that the bandits who come in the middle of the night to steal from the city dwellers are bad guys, but when she follows them back to their home she discovers a land of colour, life, friendship and a future she believes in.

BANDITS is the second picture book from Sydney-based artist Sha’an d’Anthes, whose career has seen her travel, show and sell her work all over the world.

Sha’an d’Anthes is an author and illustrator from Sydney, Australia. Her work is vibrant and playful and is enjoyed by children and adults alike.  Instagram and Youtube (@furrylittlepeach)

KRISTIAN FREDRIKSON by MICHELLE POTTER

KRISTIAN FREDRIKSON BY MICHELLE POTTER
August 2020
‘ I’m the original Peter Pan : I never wanted to grow up ‘ ( Kristian Fredrikson )

Renowned dance critic Michelle Potter has produced a lushly, lavishly illustrated (both black and white and coloured ) meticulously and extensively researched biography of the eminent designer Kristian Fredrikson.The book is medium to large in size , of middling thickness and has a great index as well as a chronological list of productions that Fredrikson designed and a bibliography . The author, Michelle Potter ,is a prominent dance writer, curator and historian with a doctorate in art history and dance history from the Australian National University. Potter was inaugural Curator of Dance at the National library of Australia, 2002 – 2006, and Curator, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, New York City, 2006 – 2008.She is the recipient of an International Dance Day Award (1996), two Australian Cultural Studies Awards (1998 & 2000), and two Australian Dance Awards (2001 & 2003). She also received a 2012 Scholars and Artists in Residence Fellowship at the National Film and Sound Archive.

Fredrikson was a recipient of four Erik Design Awards and won prestigious Green Room Awards for After Venice (Sydney Dance Company – 1985), King Roger (1991),Turandot (1991), The Nutcracker (1992), Salome (1993), Swan Lake (2002) and an AFI award for Undercover. Fredrickson also received a Penguin Award for The Shiralee (1988). In 1999 he received the Australian Dance Award for Services to Dance. Continue reading KRISTIAN FREDRIKSON by MICHELLE POTTER

HOW I CLAWED MY WAY TO THE MIDDLE: A MEMOIR

One of the positives of this vile Covid 19 pandemic is the production of John Wood’s memoir, HOW I CLAWED MY WAY TO THE MIDDLE.

The actor had been asked to commit pen to paper previously but quickly lost interest in the subject the moment he sat down to chronicle his career.

At the beginning of 2020, John found himself treading the boards at the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney playing in Crunch Time, David Williamson’s swan song.

During this time, he was thinking if David was calling it quits maybe he should pull up stumps too, but then reconsidered. What could he possibly do if he wasn’t acting. Then Corona closed Crunch Time and he had time to work on this book. Continue reading HOW I CLAWED MY WAY TO THE MIDDLE: A MEMOIR

SYDNEY JEWISH WRITER’S ONLINE FESTIVAL

The Sydney Jewish Writer’s Festival has announced this year’s online program. The program features an exploration of global issues and the international Jewish experience with some of the best contemporary Jewish writers.

Delving into shared history and inherited trauma, these deeply personal stories  transport us to our past, whilst connecting us to our present

All of the events will be held online, keeping one connected. from the safety of one’s own home.

Check out the full program online,  featuring Arnold Zable, Benjamin Law and many more amazing authors.

Here is the link to the full program-

https://www.shalom.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/SJWF-programbookletfinal.pdf

Any post interview comments and discussion points can be entered into the new Facebook page that has been set up called the Jewish Book Club,

 

 

 

 

CHASING THE LIGHT: A STONE’S THROW AT IMMORTALITY

I first met Oliver Stone in 1986 on a junket tour of Australia to promote his film, Salvador. He was spikey, passionate, exhausting and exhausted. Having just read what I hope will be the first installment of his memoirs, CHASING THE LIGHT, I now know why.

He had made two harrowing films, back to back, SALVADOR and PLATOON, and their making takes up half of this bloody entertaining biography.

CHASING THE LIGHT concerns Stone’s first forty years of life, from child of divorce to golden boy of Hollywood, his time as foreign posted teacher, merchant sailor, and tour of Vietnam as a “grunt” weaving the fabric of his life and dreams in between.

CHASING THE LIGHT has some good, some great and some horrible moments, but indelible.

Regarding his childhood, his first fifteen years, Stone says, he had a blessed life, “I wholeheartedly adored my sexy mother, trusted and respected, sometimes feared, my hardworking and loving father.”

He had complete access to two cultures, two languages (his mother was French), able to speak and think in both.

His mother would often sneak him out of school to attend double feature bills at the movies, and he writes that he could never have surmounted the obstacles he’d face later making his own movies without the fundamental sense of optimism instilled by her.

That optimism was first truly tested when his parents divorced while he was away at boarding school, then again when his hopes of becoming a novelist were shattered. The rejection of his novel, at age twenty, made him give up on himself, where very dark thoughts propelled him to volunteer for the draft, specifically insisting on infantry in Vietnam at the lowest possible level.

Stone confesses that he has competing visions for his life- “it was a pirate’s life I romantically saw” – He’d be the Captain of a chaotic crew – Salvador, Platoon – looking for the vessel of the next story idea and then board her and plunder her, with a wary eye out for other treacherous freebooters like Dino De Laurentis, Jon Peters, and various studios, who would sell you out for a pittance if there was something in it for them.

Film financing was the bane of film making life as funds for Salvador were siphoned from a proposed Arnold Schwarzenneger project that went into turn around.

CHASING THE LIGHT is quite an eye opener on Stone’s travails as director getting up two extraordinary projects, Salvador and Platoon, both which would garner Academy Award nominations, with Platoon securing his first for directing.

It is also full of anecdotes about the ones that he wrote that never got made, wrote, got made by other directors and bastardised like Eight Million Ways to Die, or films that finally eventuated way down the track.

Case in point: As far back as 1978, Born on the Fourth of July was going to be made with Al Pacino in the lead. Stone describes the rehearsals with Pacino as a white hot modern version of Richard III in a wheel chair. He also relates the devastation felt, two weeks out from shooting, the collapse of the German tax shelter financing. Stone would, of course, go on and make the film as a Tom Cruise vehicle, collecting a second Best Director Oscar for it.

CHASING THE LIGHT is written with the natural born killer style that Stone’s screenplays have and one looks forward the novel that is promised to be published. And to the next installment of memoir.

CHASING THE LIGHT by Oliver Stone is published by Monoray

HARRY COOK : FIN, RYE AND FIREFLIES

A gloriously upbeat LGBTQI+ novel of love, hope and friendship – showing that although it’s not always rainbows and fireflies, life’s too short to be anyone but yourself …

‘It started with a kiss … as love stories often do. Jesse Andrews had the arms of a Greek god and he was on the track team. The night of our kiss fell on a Friday.’ 

Then, only a few days later, Fin’s world is turned upside down – and not in a good head-over-heels-in-love way – when Jesse cruelly outs him. An event which ultimately leads to his family leaving town.  Continue reading HARRY COOK : FIN, RYE AND FIREFLIES

THE SANDPIT: SPY PLAYGROUND

The last book I read by Nicholas Shakespeare was Oddfellows, a mini masterpiece, a sublimely sparse and economically elegant powder keg of a story, full of untethered emotions, suspicions and latent jealousies, a history of fear overlaid with hate.

Shakespeare’s latest book, THE SANDPIT is not so sparse, at nearly four times the length, but its breadth taking canvas is no less hued with those suspicions, jealousies and untethered emotions.

THE SANDPIT is unequivocally set in Le Carre land, indeed comparisons between THE SANDPIT and Le Carre’s last book, Agent Running in the Field, are fetched in the imagination, however THE SANDPIT never really aspires to be a spy thriller.

Yes there are Spooks, British and American, Russian oligarchs and Iranian scientists, but the tone of THE SANDPIT reminds one of a reluctant attendance to a school reunion. The novel is rather an exercise in political logic, the scones and jam of espionage rather than the toast and caviar of celebrated fictional secret agents.

Libraries and books and post it notes are employed in the field craft of amateur espionage, and a playground sandpit utilised in the secretion of documents and scientific formulas, pepped up with a kidnapping, an interrogation and a dip in a honey trap.

Shakespeare’s politics slip off his sleeve and onto the page. At a briefing at British Intelligence it is espoused that:
Iran could have built a bomb like North Korea ages ago had it wanted. But why bother? There was no need, not when the US was making such a comprehensive mess of it’s foreign policy. Leaving aside the unhelpful fact that the US had not been able to defeat goat-herders in flip-flops in Afghanistan, there is the troubling example of the present incumbent in the White House – Who may have earned the right to be considered, forgive my Farsi, the biggest spurt of piss ever let out of an American prick.

Shakespeare notes that THE SANDPIT may be read on its own or as a sequel to The Dancer Upstairs. Having not read The Dancer Upstairs I can concur THE SANDPIT stands up as a singular narrative. The denouement is not pole-axing but contemplative, and all the more real for it.

THE SANDPIT by Nicholas Shakespeare is published by Harvill Secker

THE CODES OF LOVE: THE DEVIL IS IN THE DIALOGUE

What’s it worth? Is it worth while? Is it worth whiling away a few hours, to experience a fling? Well, it goes from worth to worth in Hannah Persaud’s debut novel, THE CODES OF LOVE.

An astonishing story of desire and delusion, THE CODES OF LOVE revolves around the concentric connubial couple Emily and Ryan. He’s a successful architect, she is a teacher of writing. Their marriage is an open one, instigated by Emily.

But what happens when both are attracted to the same person, in this instance, the free spirited Ada, seductive bi sexual force of nature, and what happens when an unrequited love goes unanswered?

As ambitious as wearing shorts in Wales, THE CODES OF LOVE sets out to decipher the X factors that can corrupt the rules of extra marital sexual congress and the transgressions that can occur when either party get lax or when external influence flex extortionate pressure.

THE CODES OF LOVE also explores the effects of an open marriage on the children and the concept of truthfulness as opposed to faithfulness. The idea of an open marriage as espoused by Emily is that is dispenses with double standards but given the vagaries of human emotions, in this case it leads to a double life, a double life doubled, or squared, and the conceit leads inexorably into deceit.

Hannah Persaud’s prose is page-turningly good, the sex scenes show no symptoms of the purple and are all the more erotic, all good in the clinches, but it’s her dialogue that cinches that she’s the real deal in writing about marriage and intimate relationships.

THE CODES OF LOVE is a thriller of sorts, with mystery, intrigue, stalking, disappearances, blackmail, secrets and lies. And an unexpected twist.

THE CODES OF LOVE by Hannah Persau is published by Muswell Press.

TARA JUNE WINCH WINS THIS YEAR’S MILES FRANKLIN AWARD

Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch has won the Miles Franklin Literary Award — Australia’s most prestigious writing prize, and one of its richest at $60,000 — for her novel ‘The Yield’.

Winch is the fourth Indigenous Australian author to win the prize, following last year’s winner Melissa Lucashenko (for Too Much Lip), Kim Scott (who shared the prize in 2000 for Benang and won again in 2011 with That Deadman Dance) and Alexis Wright (for Carpentaria, 2007). Continue reading TARA JUNE WINCH WINS THIS YEAR’S MILES FRANKLIN AWARD

MONEY FOR SOMETHING: TUGGING AT YOUR G STRINGS

Money for something and the tricks are not free, Mia Walsch’s memoir MONEY FOR SOMETHING is a rough and tumble in the rub and tug world of erotic massage.

When Mia is arsed from her insurance company filing clerk job for being a slack arse, the on her arse bong bingeing nineteen year old finally follows her destiny.

As a student, Mia covered her school folders and diaries with the adult services pages from the newspaper. She didn’t know then that she would later spend three years working her way through a good number of those establishments.

As Mia says in haunting refrain, she has no shame, only need. Money for Something is an exploration and examination of the necessity and urgency of need; need as hunger, need as yearning, the need for drugs, the need to self-harm, the need for sex, attention, self-destruction, escape.

Money for Something is certainly an account of an alternative lifestyle, an offer to experience a way of life vicariously through a divergent perspective, and the daily task of striking a balance between joy and depression, between pleasure and pain.

Mia muses on the stigma of working on staff. If sex work is the selling of a body, cant the same be said about other forms of bodily labour. Any sort of physical work for compensation could be classified as ‘selling a body.’

Proclaiming she is happy giving handies, sitting on faces and the occasional blow job, Mia shafts the idea of full service, penetrative sex.

Fetish fun is another facet Mia explores, apprenticing at The Manor, a dungeon for doms to work on subs where she trained in sessions how to spank, paddle, flog, tie, cuff, role-play, penetrate and flagellate.

Mia dispenses some literary advice. Don’t read Flaubert in the bath, especially with a fag dropping fleabag scaredy cat. Madame Bovary nearly killed her, but for real. Good old Gustave left her literally gasping.

There’s few that can hold a candle to her candour, as she waxes and never wanes, weighing in on “taboo” subjects —mental illness, drug use, self-harm, sexuality and sex—and makes them totems.

MONEY FOR SOMETHING by Mia Walsch is published by Echo

SORRY FOR YOUR TROUBLE: A SUPERB SKEIN OF STORIES

SORRY FOR YOUR TROUBLE is Richard Ford’s latest collection of stories and you wont be sorry for the trouble he has gone to to create this pure and indispensable and thrilling call that brings us to read and listen to stories in the first place.

With his tell tale well quarried words supervised by narrative increments and nuance that are superlative in their invisible seam simplicity, Ford has afforded readers with nine captivating stories that have, more or less, an Irish flavour or connection.

Opening with a nifty narrative called Nothing To Declare, Ford contrarily declares his genius and suppresses any doubt that he has lost his gift of arresting prose, unexpected events and choices.

If writing and reading is in fact the social act of a solitary person, the marriage of solitary and social is consummated and celebrated in SORRY FOR YOUR TROUBLE, with stories that leave us sometimes baffled, amazed, bewildered, stunned and rendered speechless.

These stories sweep in like sweet medication for solitude, a balm for sorrows, the slings and arrows of existence, and the joys of living. Each and every adventure in SORRY FOR YOUR TROUBLE make up a source book of compulsory emotions, the failings and regrets of the past, the hopes and faith in the future.

In each of these handsomely crafted stories, there’s clear and present commentary on what has come, yet bravely does not look away from what is coming.

“No matter how patented life’s course seems when you are leading it day to day, everything could always have been much different” thinks the reminiscing character from the story Displaced.
Displacement is another theme running through SORRY FOR YOUR TROUBLE, displacement usually caused by marriage breakdown or widowhood.

Jonathan, the protagonist of Second Language, the final story in the collection, cites the word skein.

“It’s a skein, isn’t it?…Getting married, being not married, getting married again, getting now un-married. All of it. It’s all a skein. There’s probably no reason to concentrate too hard on any single part of it. You need to see the whole thing to understand it. And of course we cant yet.”

And so it is that SORRY FOR YOUR TROUBLE is a skein, lengths of yarn loosely coiled and knotted, with exquisite twists and frays.

SORRY FOR YOUR TROUBLE by Richard Ford is published by Bloomsbury.

THE MILES FRANLKIN LITERARY AWARD SHORTLIST HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED

The Miles Franklin Literary Awards have announced the. books that have been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.

The books are No-One by John Hughes, Exploded View by Varrie Tiffany, The White Girl by Tony Birch, The Returns by Philip Salmon , Islands by Peggy Frew and The Yield by Tata June Winch.

One thing that has been noted in literary circles Is the surge in demand by readers for books by indigenous writers. This year’s shortlist features books by two indigenous writers; Tony Birch and Tata June Winch. It is noted that three indigenous writers are past winners of the Miles Franklin Award. Continue reading THE MILES FRANLKIN LITERARY AWARD SHORTLIST HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED