Showing all posts tagged: books

My Sweet Guillotine, by Jayne Tuttle

26 September 2022
My Sweet Guillotine, by Jayne Tuttle book cover

My Sweet Guillotine (published by Hardie Grant Books, September 2022), is the second book by Australian author Jayne Tuttle.

Like her debut title, Paris or Die, My Sweet Guillotine is a memoir about her time living and working in Paris. Here though, Tuttle focuses adjusting to life following a freak accident in the French capital that almost killed her.

In the wake of a bizarre, shocking accident in Paris, Jayne finds herself back in the city in a strange limbo. Ignoring the past, she tries to move forward. There is theatre. Love. New friendships. A new neighbourhood. But the accident haunts her, forcing her to confront herself and the experience in ways she could never have predicted.

Sally Pryor, writing for The Canberra Times, describes My Sweet Guillotine as a book for those who enjoy reading about the lives and experiences of others:

Above all, My Sweet Guillotine is also a love letter – an older, wiser love letter to Paris, a place that has a majestic, wonderful indifference to her and her needs, and yet seems able to fulfil them so completely.

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Miles Allinson and Emily Bitto talk with Michaela Kalowski

13 September 2022

Melbourne based Australian authors Emily Bitto and Miles Allinson discuss their recent novels, Wild Abandon and In Moonland respectively, with Michaela Kalowski, in an interview recorded at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Having penned two of the past year’s most acclaimed novels, Miles Allinson and Emily Bitto come together to discuss their stories of characters searching for identity and meaning within fractured realities. Miles talks about In Moonland, a family portrait of three generations that stretches from the wild idealism of the 70s to the fragile hopes for the future. Emily sheds light on Wild Abandon, her tale of a lonely outsider who travels from Australia to America’s heartland trying to find his place in a late-capitalist world.

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Dystopian stories might sell, but do they change the world?

12 September 2022

Can dystopian stories bring about positive change, or do they dull readers into accepting the grim inevitable? Climate change will destroy the world. Governments will soon control our every thought. And so on. British novelist and critic Olivia Laing suggests stories that are more positive, may bring about — you know — positive outcomes.

We become accustomed to what we once found shocking. The bad future lives inside people’s heads, gathering its own momentum. It seems to me we’ve put too much faith in the inoculatory power of terrifying simulations, rather than realising that for certain viewers they might suggest appetising possibilities, while for others they confirm dread, magnifying the emotions that contribute to paralysis and foreclosing on any more liberating or enlivening alternatives.

This doesn’t mean the world needs more stories with conflict-free plots, rather outcomes that might inspire readers instead of disheartening them.

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ManyBooks fifty-thousand free fiction titles to read

12 September 2022

ManyBooks is an online book resource offering free access to over fifty-thousand titles. That should keep you occupied for a while.

ManyBooks was established in 2004 with the vision to provide an extensive library of books in digital format for free on the Internet. Many of the early eBooks are from the Project Gutenberg archives, which means you will be able to find a lot of classics on the site.

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Alice Pung named chair of judges for the 2023 Stella Prize

9 September 2022

Melbourne based author and lawyer Alice Pung was named chair of judges for the 2023 Stella Prize last month. The prize, which recognises the work of women and non-binary writers, is one of Australia’s most prestigious literary awards.

I recently read Pung’s 2021 novel One Hundred Days, which was shortlisted in both the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award, and the 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards. The story centres on sixteen year Kuruna, and her fraught — to put it mildly — relationship with her overbearing mother, which becomes all the more strained after Kuruna falls pregnant. Not an easy read, if I’m honest.

On the subject of the 2023 Stella Prize, entries are presently being accepted until Wednesday 12 October 2022.

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The Age Book of the Year prize 2022 winners announced

9 September 2022

In Moonland by Melbourne based Australian author Miles Allinson, which I’ve written about previously, has won the fiction prize in The Age Book of the Year prize 2022.

Meanwhile Leaping into Waterfalls by Sydney based writer and literary critic Bernadette Brennan — a biography of late Australian short story writer and novelist Gillian Mears — has taken out the award for non-fiction.

The winners of the prize, which was re-booted last year after a nine year hiatus, were announced on the opening night of the Melbourne Writers Festival.

The Dinny O’Hearn Poetry Prize was in the past awarded to works of — you guessed it — poetry, but this doesn’t appear to have been presented since 2012.

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The Booker Prize 2022 shortlist

7 September 2022
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeid by Shehan Karunatilaka book cover

The Booker Prize 2022 shortlist has been unveiled:

Featured above is the cover of Shehan Karunatilaka’s shortlisted title The Seven Moons of Maali Almeid. It would win the disassociated prize for best book cover on the Booker Prize shortlist, if there were such a thing.

The winner will be announced on Monday 17 October 2022.

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Apollo Remastered, beautifully enhanced photos of the Apollo flights

5 September 2022
Aquarius, lunar module, Apollo 13, photo courtesy of NASA

Image courtesy of NASA.

The above image is of Aquarius, lunar module of the ill-fated Apollo 13 Moon flight of April 1970.

Here it is seen moments after being jettisoned by the Apollo crew. For those who came in late, Aquarius acted as a “lifeboat” for much of the shortened Apollo 13 mission, after an explosion damaged Odyssey, the command module. Without Aquarius the crew may never have returned home.

I’m not sure though if it features in Apollo Remastered, the new book by British author and science writer Andy Saunders, which contains a veritable trove of photos from the Apollo missions. Saunders has spent the last few years enhancing four hundred previously grainy images, making them far sharper and clearer than those originally released.

Some before and after examples of the remastered photos can be seen in this BBC report by Jonathan Amos. And if you’re not familiar with the Apollo 13 story, American filmmaker Ron Howard’s 1995 feature of the same name is well worth a look.

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The value of tsundoku, the value of book hoarding

29 August 2022

Tsundoku is the word of the day. It is a Japanese portmanteau from the nineteenth century, describing the accumulation of books that will never be read. Great stacks of books lying around the house, waiting to be read. Already the thought grates against my minimalist sensibilities.

As American journalist and writer Clive Thompson explains though, all these books — gathering dust as they may be — are a great way to remind ourselves of the stockpile of knowledge in the world. Maybe there are days when it’s easy to believe we know all there is to know. Those same books, sitting there still unread, still gathering dust, which Thompson refers to as an antilibrary, serve to inform us we cannot know it all.

The other part of an antilibrary, though, is that it makes you constantly aware that you could explore more things. By having all those books lying around unread, they trigger curiosity.

All I can think of is trying to move house with a half a library worth of books. I once helped someone in that situation, and all I can say is: never again. I might keep to wandering among the shelves of my local library, when it comes to appreciating how much there is to know in the world.

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Rejected authors finding publishers, film deals, on TikTok

19 August 2022

TikTok is proving to be a fertile ground for new music acts looking for a lucky break, with the video hosting app kick-starting the careers of numerous musicians so far.

And authors are also cashing in. Many writers who struggled to find publishers previously, are sometimes finding themselves at the centre of bidding wars between rival publishing houses, after taking a novel idea to TikTok to gauge interest in the premise.

American writer Alex Aster is an example, and in 2021 signed a lucrative publishing deal, and later film rights, for her YA novel Lightlark.

Aster didn’t expect much, especially when she checked in a few hours later to see that her post had only clocked up about 1,000 views. Maybe the books world was right, she thought. Maybe there wasn’t a market for Lightlark, a young adult story she had been writing and rewriting for years, to no interest from publishers. The next day, however, she woke up to see her video had been viewed more than a million times. A week later, Lightlark had gone to auction and she had a six-figure deal with Amulet Books. Last month, Universal preemptively bought the film rights for, in her words, “more zeros than I’ve seen in my life”.

Aster conceded an element of luck was involved though, describing the TikTok algorithm that eventually propelled her to success as “finicky”. Here’s hoping the algorithm will favour other writers.

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The fifty best books written since Ulysses by James Joyce

18 August 2022

To mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Irish novelist James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses, British newspaper The Times has ranked the fifty best books of the twenty-first century, according to the nominations of contemporary authors and literary critics.

Between them they have read thousands of books, and their choices reflect this: the oldest book was published in 1924, the most recent in 2009. The list includes writers from Britain, Ireland, the US, Nigeria, India and South Africa, with subject matter just as diverse. You will find scalp-hunting outlaws, organ-donating clones and Wall Street traders.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, and Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, are among inclusions. When it comes to Joyce’s work, I’ve read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but am yet to take on Ulysses, but I will, but I will…

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Kylie Moore-Gilbert: the difficult return to a normal life

15 August 2022

Kylie Moore-Gilbert is an Australian academic who spent over two years in Iranian jails after being accused of spying, despite no evidence backing up the claims ever being published. Last week Moore-Gilbert wrote about being incarcerated, and the challenges of rebuilding her life, on returning to Melbourne in November 2020.

I am a 35-year-old childless divorcee with a criminal record. It was never meant to be this way, of course. A few years ago I was on track to achieving that comfortable middle-class existence of husband, dream job and a mortgage on a house in the suburbs. I was driven, I was hard-working, I was ambitious. After years of juggling full-time study with multiple part-time jobs I had finally gained an unsteady foothold on the precarious academic ladder. I was working on my first book, an adaptation of my PhD. I taught undergraduate and masters courses, and supervised research students. I used to think I had life more or less figured out, and myself too for that matter.

Incidentally, Moore-Gilbert’s memoir My 804 Days in an Iranian Prison, is among shortlisted titles for the 2022 The Age book of the year award. Winners will be announced when the Melbourne Writers Festival opens on Thursday 8 September 2022.

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Untapped a collection of out of print Australian books

15 August 2022

Untapped is working with Ligature Press, the Australian Society of Authors, Melbourne Law School, and libraries across Australia to make out-of-print books available once more. A growing selection of titles — dating back to 1926 so far — can be found in their collection.

Untapped is a collaboration between authors, libraries and researchers, working together to identify Australia’s lost literary treasures and bring them back to life. It creates a new income source for Australian authors, who currently have few options for getting their out-of-print titles available in libraries.

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Book plotlines tropes and clichés a publisher may reject

13 August 2022

The world is full of writers and the stories they’d like to write. American author Joseph Epstein, writing for the New York Times, quotes research suggesting eighty-one percent of Americans think they “have a book in them”. That’s a lot. Unfortunately, aspiring writers vastly outnumber book publishers, meaning many manuscripts stand to go unnoticed and unpublished.

It might not seem like much help, but Strange Horizons — a magazine publishing speculative fiction — once put together a list of the types of sci-fi stories that they’ve seen submitted too often, and subsequently did not feature. I suspect they’re not the only publishers seeing such ideas either. Knowing what might be rejected then, might help you write something that won’t be.

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Fiction and non-fiction reading suggestions August 2022

11 August 2022

Out of Breath by Anna Snoekstra, The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton, and Random Acts of Unkindness by Anna Mandoki, are among reading suggestions for August, put together by Lucy Sussex and Steven Carroll.

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Everything Feels Like the End of the World by Else Fitzgerald

8 August 2022
Everything Feels Like the End of the World, by Else Fitzgerald, book cover

Everything Feels Like the End of the World (published by Allen & Unwin, 2 August 2022), by Mornington Peninsula based Australian writer Else Fitzgerald, seems like a book title for the times some days.

Winner of the 2019 Richell Prize for emerging writers, Fitzgerald written a collection of short stories, exploring a number of chilling dystopian futures for Australia, set both in the near and distant future:

Each story is anchored, at its heart, in what it means to be human: grief, loss, pain and love. A young woman is faced with a difficult choice about her pregnancy in a community ravaged by doubt. An engineer working on a solar shield protecting the Earth shares memories of their lover with an AI companion. Two archivists must decide what is worth saving when the world is flooded by rising sea levels. In a heavily policed state that preferences the human and punishes the different, a mother gives herself up to save her transgenic child.

Nanci Nott, writing for Artshub, describes Everything Feels Like the End of the World as an engaging collection of speculative short fictions:

Each tale is intensely personal, vibrant with specificity, and written with precision. Characters don’t just exist within their settings; entire worlds inhabit these characters. A master of minutiae and memory, Fitzgerald creates an intricate universe of befores-and-afters, sacrifices and consequences, mundane joys and darkest days.

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Publisher to profit from sale of used textbooks sold as NFTs

8 August 2022

Publishers may soon see more return from the sale of second-hand electronic books, if a proposal by British educational and textbook publisher Pearson to sell their titles as NTFs is successful.

Educational books are often sold more than once, since students sell study resources they no longer require. Publishers have not previously been able to make any money from secondhand sales, but the rise of digital textbooks has created an opportunity for companies to benefit.

NFTs confer ownership of a unique digital item by recording it on a decentralised digital register known as a blockchain. Typically these items are images or videos, but the technology allows for just about anything to be sold and owned in this way.

At the moment few digital books are sold as NFTs, with the exception of some self-published novels, though this may change in the wake of Pearson’s proposal.

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Fifty of the funniest, laugh out loud, books ever written

30 July 2022

Fifty of the funniest books of all time complied by Sarah McKenna, managing editor of Penguin Books in the UK. The list begins with Three Men in a Boat written by Jerome K. Jerome in 1889, and scrolls through to A Calling for Charlie Barnes, written by Joshua Ferris in 2021.

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The 2022 Booker Prize longlist

27 July 2022

The 2022 Booker Prize longlist was announced overnight, Australian time. Thirteen authors including Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet, and Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout, are among those included.

It includes the youngest and oldest authors ever to be nominated, as well as the shortest book, three debuts and two new publishers receiving their first ever nominations. Chair of the judges Neil MacGregor said ‘The list offers story, fable and parable, fantasy, mystery, meditation and thriller’.

The shortlist for the Booker Prize, which celebrates English language novels published in Ireland and the UK each year, will be unveiled on Tuesday 6 September 2022.

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Where the Crawdads Sing adaptation fails to impress critics

23 July 2022

Where the Crawdads Sing, the 2018 debut novel of North Carolina based wildlife scientist Delia Owens, was a hit on Bookstagram, but the recently released film adaptation is not faring quite so well.

Both the major film review aggregation services, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, score the Olivia Newman directed feature forty-two and thirty-five out of one hundred, respectively. In other words, readers of the book loved the story, but film critics are far from impressed by its big-screen counterpart.

Carlos Aguilar, writing for The Wrap, described the adaptation as bland and mediocre:

Submerged in the muggy waters of the North Carolina marsh — which per the voiceover, is not a swamp — British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones tries to save “Where the Crawdads Sing,” the film adaption of Delia Owens’ best-selling novel, from drowning in its own bland mediocrity.

Rachel LaBonte, film writer for Screen Rant, notes that while the adaptation is largely faithful to the novel, much of the book’s tension fails to transpose to film:

Additionally, in its attempt to bring as many book moments to life as possible, the movie finds itself grappling with a few awkward moments that, while reading fine on the page, don’t exactly translate well to a visual medium.

Meanwhile, Leigh Monson, writing for The A.V. Club, was more positive, lauding Daisy Edgar-Jones’ portrayal of protagonist Kya, the so-called “Marsh Girl”, although she found the pacing of the film at odds with the novel:

The weakest link in the cinematic adaptation is the courtroom procedural that feels crowbarred between bits of Kya’s history. In a novel, chapter breaks can signal a natural demarcation between disparate story beats, but in a two-hour film, the transition between scenes should feel more natural, or at least thematically interconnected. Courtroom scenes pop up without warning, and they only function in parallel to, and never in conjunction with, the flashback scenes that proceed or follow them.

The consensus among critics mirror LaBonte and Monson’s thoughts, the film closely resembles the book, yet doesn’t quite excite in the same way. A case of so close, yet so far, perhaps. It seems there are some novels that are simply best not adapted to film.

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