Showing all posts tagged: books

The 2024 Stella Prize for Australian literature shortlist

12 April 2024

And talking of Australian fiction, the shortlist for the 2024 Stella Prize, the Australian literary award that recognises the work of Australian women and non-binary writers, was unveiled last week. The following six titles were selected:

I’m a big fan of literary prize lists, be they long or short, given they’re always a great source of reading ideas, since I only sometimes have my finger on the pulse of literary happenings. In the same way Triple J’s Hottest 100 is great for new music discovery, for those unable to listen to music 24/7.

Good to see Melbourne based author Katherine Brabon listed with her latest novel. I really enjoyed her 2021 novel, The Shut-ins. I highly recommend adding it your TBR list, if you’ve not yet read it.

And for reference, here is the Stella’s longlist, which was published in early March. The 2024 winner of the Stella Prize will be named on Thursday 2 May 2024.

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No one can interpret your dreams except you

12 April 2024

I sometimes write about books, novels, here. Usually Australian fiction, which I make a point to read as much of as possible. I’m currently (still) reading Before You Knew my Name, the 2021 debut of Melbourne based New Zealand author Jacqueline Bublitz. I guess therefore that’s close (in my book, if you’ll excuse the pitiful pun) to being an Australian title.

Perhaps though some people think this makes me worth approaching to write about other sorts of books, non-fiction even. Perhaps that’s why I was recently asked if I would read, and offer some thoughts here, about a recently completed book.

But I declined. It’s not because the title was self-published. As an online self-publisher, I have no problems with initiative based publishing. I’ve long been considering self-publishing a book, a novel myself, if I can ever finish writing it.

What bothered me was the subject matter: dream interpretation. Or, more succinctly, the regarding of objects, happenings, and other things that occur in dreams, as being symbols of some sort, that can be said to have a standard, or universal, meaning. For instance, two thousand people see a blackbird in a dream, and seemingly it means the same thing to each and every one of them.

Yeah, right.

Our dreams are our subconscious brain processing our individual thoughts, problems, concerns, hopes, you name it. How anyone else, another individual whom we’ve never met, is meant to know the significance of these visions we have — assuming we remember them — is beyond me.

As such, I have no interest in endorsing any books on the subject. The world does not need (and here’s hoping the author in question is not reading this) another pseudoscience title clogging the shelves at bookshops.

I have some wild crazy dreams sometimes. If my recollection of them is clear enough on waking, I try and jot down as much detail as possible, and self-analyse what I saw later on. Sometimes discerning a meaning is not hard, once going through the feelings, emotions, events, and of course, the people present, in the dream.

Often though, I’m just left with an intriguing notion to mull for a time, until something in the here and now distracts me.

I wrote back to the author, and told them their type of dream interpretation was not my thing, and wished them all the best with their work. By the way, I’m pretty sure I spotted a blackbird or two in a recent dream, but did not later end up buying a bunch of bananas, or whatever the sight of a blackbird in a dream is purported to mean.

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Seen, read, and heard, books, film, TV, and music March 2024

27 March 2024

Long time readers of Kottke have doubtless seen his semi-regular media diet posts, where he writes about the movies and TV shows he’s seen, plus books he’s been reading. Kottke is a voracious consumer of media if those posts are anything to go by.

In comparison, my consumption is far more modest. Maybe it’s because I have a minimum of two to three hours away from screens daily, and/or I spend too much time daydreaming.

Still, dimming the lights during the quiet remains of the day, and taking in a movie or TV show, and afterwards, a book, is always something to look forward to.

Movie poster for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, featuring Chloe Grace Moretz

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a 2018 film directed by Desiree Akhavan, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, as the titular character. After learning Cameron has a girlfriend, her conservative aunt and guardian sends her away for gay “conversion” therapy at a religious institution. I watched this twice, as I found the first viewing unsettling to say the least.

Also unsettling and confronting is Nitram, by Justin Kurzel, which delves into the mind of the person responsible for Australia’s largest mass-shooting in 1996, at Port Arthur, in Tasmania.

Tully, directed by Jason Reitman in 2018, stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, who is struggling to raise a family after the birth of her third child. Reluctantly she hires a night nanny named Tully. Despite some early misgivings about Tully, the two quickly develop a close bond.

Knives Out, made in 2019 by Rian Johnson, sees Daniel Craig playing a James Bond like role that not the least bit James Bond (thankfully). Craig portrays Benoit Blanc, a private investigator, who tries to piece together the apparent suicide of a wealthy family patriarch. If whodunits are your thing, this is not to be missed.

I’ve also found time to look at Nemesis, a documentary produced by the ABC, which looks at the last three Coalition party Prime Ministers of Australia. What can I say? Once a politician, always a politician? And, we may wear the same stripes, but that doesn’t mean we like each other. Even if politics isn’t your thing, this is still fascinating viewing.

I’ve also been tuning into Universe, a documentary by British physicist Brian Cox. There’s no missing the similarities to Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, made by Carl Sagan in the early 1980’s. Compared to Cosmos, Universe does plod a little, but Cox’s enthusiasm, indeed joy, for the gargantuan entity we reside in, is nothing short of infectious.

Most people probably know Cox played keyboards in British dance/electronica act D:Ream, and their 1993 track Things can only get better, perhaps remains one of the band’s best known tracks. But you may not know that Cox later conceded the song was misleading and scientifically inaccurate. The universe, despite being a mere baby, is already in an inexorable, albeit protracted, decline. Things are certainly not getting better…

Turning to novels, I’ve recently read Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens, by Sydney based author and lawyer Shankari Chandran, which won the 2023 Miles Franklin literary award for Australian fiction. I’m not really into crime fiction, but couldn’t put down The Housemate, by Melbourne writer Sarah Bailey.

Likewise, Funny Ethnics by Shirley Li, set across the west and inner west of Sydney, which I wrote about here last year. I’m currently reading Before You Knew My Name, by Jacqueline Bublitz, a story about two women, one alive, one dead, whose fates become intertwined in New York.

The Triple J Hottest 100 was broadcast two months ago, but I’m still sifting through the countdown for tracks to add to my playlists. At present though I have Paint The Town Red, by Doja Cat, and The Worst Person Alive, by G Flip, on repeat. Also State Violence State Control, by Arnaud Rebotini, which was on the soundtrack for Mark Raso’s 2014 film Copenhagen.

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Incredible Doom, life as a teenage proto-blogger in 1999

28 September 2023

Incredible Doom by Matthew Bogart and Jesse Holden, book cover

Book cover of Incredible Doom Vol 1, created by Matthew Bogart and Jesse Holden.

Incredible Doom is a serialised comic strip about two American teenage proto-bloggers, Dougie and Anna, in 1999, by Matthew Bogart and Jesse Holden. If you were on the web in 1999, as I was, this could be awesome.

And while I don’t know about crowdsourcing blog ideas at a drive through, Dougie and Anna could’ve made worse choices. Maybe if I write a novel about my early days online, I’ll tell the story. Otherwise Incredible Doom strikes me as being a gritty depiction of blogging in the late nineteen-nineties.

The book cover above, for Incredible Doom Vol. 1, by the way, is not directly related to the comic strip/graphic novel. This is a different story, featuring other characters. But it still sounds intriguing:

Allison is drowning under the weight of her manipulative stage magician father. When he brings home the family’s first computer, she escapes into a thrilling new world where she meetings Samir, a like-minded new online friend who has just agreed to run away from home with her.

After moving to a new town and leaving all of his friends behind, Richard receives a mysterious note in his locker with instructions on how to connect to “Evol BBS,” a dial-in bulletin board system, and meets a fierce punk named Tina who comes into his life and shakes his entire worldview loose.

A dial-in bulletin board system called Evol BBS? You can’t get any better than that.

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The 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize shortlists

27 September 2023

The shortlists for the 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize were announced earlier today. The award is presented in two categories, Adult, and Children and Young Adult. The three finalists in each category are as follows:

Adult

Children and Young Adult

Presented in association with the ARA Group, the ARA Historical Novel Prize, which is awarded annually, recognises excellence in historical fiction writing by Australian and New Zealand authors. The winners of both award categories will be named on Thursday 19 October 2023.

This year’s shortlist also marks the second year in a row that Katrina Nannestad has featured on the shortlists. Nannestad went on to win the Children and Young Adult category in 2022 with her book Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief. Will it be two a row for her this year?

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Islands of Secrets by Stefanie Koens wins 2023 Banjo Prize for unpublished Australian fiction

26 September 2023

Stefanie Koens has been named winner of the 2023 Banjo Prize for unpublished Australian fiction, with her manuscript titled Islands of Secrets, a work of historic fiction that spans several decades:

Shortly before Christmas in 2018, schoolteacher Tess McCarthy flies to Western Australia’s remote Abrolhos Islands in search of answers — both to the infamous Batavia shipwreck and her personal family crises. In 1628, Saskia, a young Dutchwoman, boards Batavia with her family, bound for a new life in the East Indies — only for her world to first collide with Aris Jansz, the ship’s reluctant under surgeon. Tess, Saskia and Aris carry the baggage of past losses and the uncertainty of their futures. And, in the most unlikely circumstances, they find qualities that span centuries: faith, acceptance, and love.

As part of the prize, Koens will be awarded a publishing contract from HarperCollins Publishers for Islands of Secrets.

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Amy Winehouse: In Her Words, for book for her fans

25 September 2023

Amy Winehouse: In Her Words, book cover

Book cover of Amy Winehouse: In Her Words.

Amy Winehouse: In Her Words, published by HarperCollins, one for fans of late British musician and singer Amy Winehouse.

Much has been said about Amy Winehouse since her tragic death aged just 27. But who was the real Amy? Amy Winehouse: In Her Words shines a spotlight on her incredible writing talent, her wit, her charm and lust for life. Bringing together Amy’s own never-before-seen journals, handwritten lyrics and family photographs together for the first time, this intimate tribute traces her creative evolution from growing up in North London to global superstardom, and provides a rare insight into the girl who became a legend.

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Tilda Cobham-Hervey cast as Esme in The Dictionary of Lost Words play

19 September 2023

The Dictionary Of Lost Words show poster

Adelaide based Australian actor Tilda Cobham-Hervey will take the lead role of Esme, in the stage adaptation of The Dictionary of Lost Words, based on the 2020 novel of the same name, written by Australian author Pip Williams.

Set at the beginning of the twentieth century in the British city of Oxford, The Dictionary of Lost Words is a fictionalised recounting of the story behind the publication of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Spanning several decades, the story is narrated by Esme, the daughter of one of the dictionary’s lexicographers.

Last November, the State Theatre Company of South Australia announced they were working with Jessica Arthur to bring Williams’ novel to the stage, which opens on Friday 22 September 2023, in the South Australian capital. After a three week season, the show moves to Sydney, for a season of about seven weeks at Sydney Opera House, from Thursday 26 October 2023.

Cobham-Hervey is both a screen and stage actor. Past film credits include 52 Tuesdays, Hotel Mumbai, and I Am Woman, while previous stage roles include Things I Know to Be True and Vale.

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Kinky History, a book by Esme Louise James

19 September 2023

Kinky History by Esme Louise James, book cover

Book cover of Kinky History, by Esmé Louise James.

Tuesday 3 October 2023 promises to be a red letter day for devotees of kinks, fetishes, and spicy sex, for that is the day Kinky History, by Melbourne based Australian writer Esmé Louise James will be published. For those thinking Kinky History has a familiar ring to it, James’ book takes its title from the well kown series of the same name that she presents on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

Kinky History draws on Esmé Louise James’s phenomenally successful series on TikTok, which explores scandalous stories in the ancient world and the saucy secrets of famous figures. Teaming up with her statistician mother, Dr Susan James, the pair have surveyed the nation for all of your intimate secrets — and the results are in. By placing the past in conversation with the present, we’ll explore five ‘kinks’ that challenge our thinking about sex. How has the idea of sin shaped our sex lives? Why is masturbation so taboo? Where are our hidden queer histories? How do kinks and fetishes play with the idea of sex? And why does pornography have so much power over us?

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The 2023 Banjo Prize shortlist for unpublished Australian fiction

7 September 2023

The shortlist for the 2023 Banjo Prize, for unpublished Australian fiction, was announced on Tuesday 5 September 2023, and includes the manuscripts of five writers:

The winner of the prize, which is presented annually by HarperCollins Australia, will have the opportunity to see their work published. The winner will be named on Tuesday 26 September 2023.

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