The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2021 shortlist

25 October 2021

The shortlist for the (Australian) Prime Minister’s Literary Awards was unveiled last week. The awards recognise a broad spectrum of Australian writing, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, Australian history, young adult, and children’s literature. A generous A$80,000 prize (tax free) is on offer to the overall winner, a nice shot in the arm for someone’s future writing endeavours, while all shortlisted authors receive $5,000 each.

Andrew Pippos, Evie Wyld, and Amanda Lohrey, are among contenders in the fiction category. The winner will be announced in early December, 2021.

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A Hero, a new film by Asghar Farhadi

25 October 2021

A Hero (teaser) is the latest feature from Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi. Variety describes the new film thusly:

[A Hero] is the story of Rahim (Amir Jadidi), who is in prison for a debt that he was unable to pay. During a two-day leave, an act of kindness provides him with an opportunity to convince his creditor to withdraw the complaint so he can go free, but not everything goes as planned.

But not everything goes as planned… this is the hallmark of Farhadi’s work. A relatively minor incident occurs. Those in the vicinity scramble to cover their tracks because they have something to hide. But it’s too late, and from there things quickly spiral out of control. If you’re new to Farhadi’s films I suggest you look at About Elly, A Separation, and The Past to get started.

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No. 91/92: A Parisian Bus Diary, by Lauren Elkin

25 October 2021
No. 91/92: A Parisian Bus Diary, by Lauren Elkin, book cover

It’s not exactly fiction, but I couldn’t go passed the concept behind No. 91/92: A Parisian Bus Diary (published by Tablo Tales, 2021), written by London based American-French author Lauren Elkin. Partly because it’s sometimes the way I use my phone – though not so much for keeping a dairy of what I see and hear on my travels on public transport – and partly because I think it’s such great idea.

For seven months, between September 2014 and May 2015, using the notes app on her iPhone, while commuting on the number ninety-one and ninety-two buses, to a teaching job, Elkin tapped in observations she made along the way. Perhaps not the way most people might use their smartphones, but Elkin’s aim was “to observe the world through the screen of my phone, rather than to use my phone to distract myself from the world.”

It makes me think, what if a copy of this book were given to every commuter? Might it prompt one or two people to think about how they spend their travel time, and who knows, consider using it differently, more – dare I say it – productively? And potentially end up a published author as a result: how does that sound for an enticement? It’s surprising how much is going on in the world, when we tune into it.

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Malignant trailer

23 October 2021

It’s been a long week. I think this calls for a quiet night in, watching a nice movie. Do you think Malignant (trailer), the latest feature from James Wan, starring Annabelle Wallis, is a good choice?

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Silverchair will not be reforming: Daniel Johns

23 October 2021

Daniel Johns, lead singer of the defunct NSW Central Coast based indie rock act Silverchair, speaking on Channel Ten’s The Project, said the band will not be reforming, and he has no intention of performing live again. For anyone not around at the time, Silverchair was a defining act in Australian music.

He said he had struggled to shut down the persistent rumours that Silverchair, who split in 2011, would one day reform. “I was like, ‘This is really starting to effect my mental health’. Because I am saying ‘that’s it’, and every time I try to tell the truth, someone told a lie,” he told The Project. “So I was like, ‘I wouldn’t get Silverchair back together with a gun to my head for $1 million’. Maybe that was too harsh in hindsight.”

Hope springs eternal I think. In a note posted to Silverchair’s Facebook page in May 2011, the band said they were going into “indefinite hibernation.” It might have suggested to some fans a return was on the cards at some point. John’s conversation with The Project can be streamed here until about 20 January 2022.

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Boundless Indigenous Writer’s Mentorship 2022

22 October 2021

Applications are open for the 2022 Boundless Indigenous Writer’s Mentorship, a partnership between Writing NSW and Text Publishing. Submissions close on Monday 22 November 2021.

The mentorship is awarded annually to an unpublished Indigenous writer who has made substantial progress on a work of fiction or non-fiction. The intention of the program is to support the writer to develop their manuscript and to facilitate a pathway to publication.

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From the desk of your favourite author

22 October 2021

Kill Your Darlings asked Australian authors about their writing routines, and to share images of their working spaces.

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I Give My Marriage a Year, by Holly Wainwright

22 October 2021
I Give My Marriage a Year, by Holly Wainwright, book cover

If there were an award for book cover of the year (actually there’s the Australian Book Designers Association, and the Academy of British Cover Design, for quick starters), then I’d nominate I Give My Marriage a Year (published by Pan Macmillan, August 2020), by Australian content producer and writer, Holly Wainwright. I’d do likewise if there were also an award for book title of the year.

But I Give My Marriage a Year is more than eye-catching cover design, and a pithy title, it’s like having seats centre stage while you watch two sports teams you know nothing about, go head to head. Sydneysiders Lou and Josh have been married for fourteen years. They have two children, and live in the city’s inner western suburbs. But their marriage has lulled into a void.

Lou decides it’s time to take action. Or more to the point, to make a plan to take action. For twelve months she will subject her relationship with Josh, who works as a carpenter, but would rather be in a band, to a number of stress tests. At the end of the year, she will assess the outcomes and make a final decision, does she leave Josh, or does she stay?

That leaves the reader to decide who they’ll back. And the choice may not be all that simple. Both players will break rules and land low blows. But the best in both Lou and Josh will also come to the fore. Will there be only one winner, or can the spoils of victory be shared? And without any further delay I shall add I Give My Marriage a Year to my to-be-read list.

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The Secret Life of Writers podcast with Charlotte Wood

21 October 2021

Sydney based Australian author Charlotte Wood speaks to Jemma Birrell, creative director at Tablo Publishing, and host of the Secret Life of Writers podcast. Wood, who is based in Sydney’s bustling inner west, speaks of the quiet she finds on the NSW Central Coast, something conducive to her writing. That I can go for. Fascinating to hear Wood describe her writing journey. She started out wanting to write, but not knowing what to write.

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The Housemate, by Sarah Bailey

21 October 2021
The Housemate, by Sarah Bailey, book cover

Hands up anyone who misses living in a share house. No, I didn’t think I’d see many hands up in the air. After all, what’s to miss about co-inhabiting with strangers, aside from maybe the parties? The conflicts and politics? No. The person who leaves the kitchen and bathroom perpetually messy? No. The someone bringing noisy “friends” in and out at all sorts of weird hours, usually when everyone else is trying to sleep? No.

The self-appointed head of the house who… but I’ll stop right there. I’m here today to write about the newest addition to my to-be-read list, The Housemate (published by Allen & Unwin, August 2021), the latest novel by Melbourne based Australian author and advertising executive Sarah Bailey. Olive, an investigative journalist in Melbourne, is sent out by her boss to write about the suspicious death of a woman in rural Victoria.

The deceased turns out to be the former flatmate of another woman, murdered in the so-called “Housemates Homicide”, a story that had gripped the nation ten years earlier. While the third housemate was eventually jailed for the crime, the circumstances surrounding the horrific killing were never fully understood.

Working with Cooper, her colleague podcaster, whom she doesn’t always get along with, Olive begins delving into the killing again. In doing so, Olive discovers other deaths may be connected to the original murder ten years ago. She also learns she might have a previously unknown personal connection to case, one that may pose a danger to her and her family.

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The Lost Daughter trailer

20 October 2021

The Lost Daughter (trailer), a film adaptation of Italian author Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name, directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, starring Olivia Colman. That’s a whole lot of awesome in one regular size sentence.

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Stella Prize 2022 entries close tomorrow

20 October 2021

Well, that was fast. Entries for the Stella Prize 2022 close tomorrow, Thursday, 21 October 2021. It seems like only a week or two ago when I wrote that entries had opened, but it’s more like six weeks.

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The Shadow House, by Anna Downes

20 October 2021
The Shadow House, by Anna Downes, book cover

It might be a story we’ve heard before, but there’s something about The Shadow House (published by Affirm Press, September 2021), by Sydney, Australia, based British author Anna Downes, that’s snags at my curiosity. First, there’s the prospect of starting a new life in a beautiful house, in a remote, yet welcoming, community, surrounded by a lush forest, far from a previous, unhappy existence.

But then it comes. Slowly at first. A gnawing doubt, that perhaps it’s all a little too good to be true. But by the time that happens, it’s too late. Alex, with her children, Ollie, a teenage boy, and baby Kara, have left Sydney, and moved to rural Pine Ridge, a fictional town on the NSW Central Coast of Australia. She left an abusive partner, and despite Ollie’s misgivings at leaving the city, Alex feels she made the right choice.

Until that is the strange, disturbing parcels, begin appearing on her doorstep, and Alex thinks she sees shadowy figures moving about in the dense woods enveloping the house. Six years earlier, meanwhile, Renee, had lived on a farm that became the site of the community Alex moved to. Like Alex, Renee also had a teenage son, Gabriel. But Gabriel went missing one day, and was never seen again.

Is there a connection between the odd things happening to Alex, and the tragedy that struck Renee’s family? Who is leaving bone fragments outside Alex’s house, and what’s with the spooky carry-on in the nearby forest? But Alex has cause to be alarmed, Renee reported the exact same happenings just before Gabriel disappeared…

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The Melbourne Writers Festival 2021, rewound

19 October 2021

Re-live this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival through podcasts from last month’s event. And not to be left out, the Sydney Writer’s Festival has also made recordings of proceedings from this year available.

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Scary Monsters, by Michelle de Kretser

19 October 2021
Scary Monsters, by Michelle de Kretser, book cover

Scary Monsters (published by Allen & Unwin, October 2021) the latest novel from Sri Lankan born Australian writer Michelle de Kretser, literally leaves readers wondering where to begin. With two covers, and telling two stories, what would you do? The first story, set in 1981, centres on a woman named Lili. Her family immigrated to Australia when she was young, but now she works as a teacher in France.

Lili is alarmed by the treatment meted out to immigrants from Northern Africa, who have come to France looking for a new life. Lyle, the central character of the second story in the book, lives in a dystopian near-future Australia, which is still recovering from a recent pandemic. An area of the country is perpetually on fire, casting a smoky pall over the region. Islam has been banned, and anyone who doesn’t “fit in” is deported.

Lyle is also an immigrant, but does his best to act as Australian as possible, lest he garner scorn from the authorities. Despite the dark, ominous, premise of both stories, Michael Williams writing for The Guardian, described Scary Monsters as “both devastating and very funny.” But the question remains, whose story should we read first? Lili’s or Lyle’s?

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Robert Pattinson steps up as The Batman

18 October 2021

Ok so I’ve been a little sceptical about the upcoming (rebooted?) Batman film, The Batman (trailer), directed by Matt Reeves, and starring Robert Pattinson, as the dark knight. Must there be another Batman film? Isn’t there another story about someone else to tell? But from the teaser snippets I’ve seen so far, Pattinson seems to make for a fine brooding superhero. Zoë Kravitz stars as Catwoman, and Paul Dano as the Riddler. The Batman premieres on 4 March, 2022.

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Far from the Light of Heaven, by Tade Thompson

18 October 2021
Far from the Light of Heaven, by Tade Thompson, book cover

An article published in The Atlantic in September 2018, written by Geoff Manaugh, pondered the question of dealing with crime on Mars. It was a thought provoking read, given the long time talk of establishing colonies on the red planet. But talk is easy. Mars is far from hospitable, and colonising the planet presents a raft of challenges, some of which may prove insurmountable.

But what happens, if one day in the future, we discover the means to cross the gulfs of interstellar space, and are able to establish colonies on planets we may find, that are somewhat more conducive to human habitation? The question of law enforcement is likely to be utmost on the minds of those organising such a gargantuan undertaking.

Crime beyond Earth is a theme central to Far from the Light of Heaven (published by Hachette Book Group, October 2021), the latest novel from British-born Yoruban doctor and novelist, Tade Thompson. Shell, the first mate of a vessel carrying one thousand colonists to a distant world, wakes from ten years in hibernation to discover some of the passengers have been murdered.

A puzzle to say the least, given everyone on board was asleep. Shell launches an investigation, but her work is cut out for her. Her captain, an artificial entity called Ragtime, who might know more than he lets on, is little help. Meanwhile menacing robots lurk in the shadows of the enormous vessel, which Shell cannot leave until she works out what happened.

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Easy On Me, new music from Adele

16 October 2021

After a six year recording hiatus English musician Adele releases a new single, Easy On Me. The track is lifted from her album, 30, which is scheduled to be released on Friday, 19 November, 2021.

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Artists incomes takes a hit from the COVID pandemic

16 October 2021

A lot of people have been doing it tough as a consequence of the COVID pandemic, and its impact on jobs. But artists incomes, which often hover mere dollars above the poverty line at the best of times, have had a particularly difficult time, says Anna Freeland, writing for the ABC.

According to new research conducted by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), one in two visual artists experienced an income decline of between 20–100 per cent last financial year. A sobering four in five artists and one in two arts workers earned less than $25,000 over the year, which is more than $100 a week below the poverty line for a single person with no dependents. “That figure of $25,000 may be a misnomer in itself if people are being paid a fee for commissions and those commissions are being delayed, which has happened to artists for over a year,” says NAVA Co-Director Mimi Crowe.

And from Freeland on Twitter: arts audiences are getting jabbed at a faster rate than the general population. Arts audiences includes artists’ patrons. Hopefully this bodes well for artists planning to exhibit in the near future, when lockdowns wind back.

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Trailer for Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World”

15 October 2021

The Worst Person in the World (trailer), the latest work by Norwegian film director Joachim Trier, stars Renate Reinsve as a young woman named Julie who has trouble finding a balance between her love life and professional life. Peter Bradshaw, film writer for The Guardian described Trier’s feature as an instant classic. The Worst Person in the World screens three times as part of the Sydney Film Festival in early November.

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